Nearly one out of every three American children is now overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That statistic is the biggest reason behind rising rates of type 2 diabetes – once an exclusively adult disease – in young people under 18.
Unfortunately, children with the disease commonly must deal with one or more serious health consequences much sooner than adults would. They also have a greater chance of multiple health problems related to diabetes during the early years after their diagnosis, a large trial recently found.
The new study, called TODAY2, followed 500 children with type 2 diabetes identified for the original TODAY study, which began in 2004. At the time they enrolled in TODAY, these children were between the ages of 10 and 17. They had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes for fewer than two years, and all were overweight or had obesity.
The TODAY2 results showed that within the first 15 years after being diagnosed, 60% of participants had at least one diabetes-related complication, and nearly a third had two or more complications … even though they had barely passed college age. The average age of participants after the TODAY2 follow-up was 26.
Over its 15 years of annual medical visits, researchers saw a steady decline in their ability to control their blood glucose levels with medication. Other important TODAY2 findings included:
• 67% of participants had high blood pressure
• 55% had kidney disease
• 52% had dyslipidemia, or high fat levels in the blood
• 51% had eye disease
• 32% had evidence of nerve disease.
In addition, 28% of participants – particularly those with high blood pressure, high glucose levels, or dyslipidemia – developed several of these complications over the course of the study.
“The original TODAY study showed that youth-onset type 2 diabetes is distinct from adult-onset diabetes … it is both more aggressive and more difficult to control,” said Dr. Barbara Linder, a project scientist for TODAY. “By following this unique disease course, TODAY2 shows the devastating complications that can develop in what should be the prime of these young people’s lives.”
The TODAY2 study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.