With Rise in Childhood Obesity, Corresponding Increase in Type 2 Diabetes Seen in Young Americans

A teen with type 2 diabetes hands her blood sugar report to her doctor at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles. (Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

For years, health experts have bemoaned the rise of childhood obesity in the United States. About 17% of kids and teens in the U.S. are now considered obese, a figure that has more than tripled since the 1970s, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A report in this week’s edition of the New England Journal of Medicine lays out one of the consequences of all this excess weight: a corresponding increase in childhood cases of type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when extra body fat makes it hard for cells to use insulin, a hormone that turns sugar into energy. Over time, blood sugar levels rise and cause blood vessels to become stiff, increasing the risk of life-threatening conditions like heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure, among others. More than 75,000 Americans die of diabetes each year, the CDC says.

Type 2 diabetes used to be called adult-onset diabetes, because it would take years to develop. (That’s in contrast to type 1 diabetes, formerly known as juvenile diabetes, which occurs when the immune system destroys the cells that make insulin.) But these days, doctors are diagnosing type 2 in school-age kids, and occasionally even in toddlers.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

(Credit: Los Angeles Times Graphics)