American researchers have found that one in four extremely obese children under the age of 10 and one in five obese adolescents under the age of 18 have a condition known as impaired glucose tolerance--a precursor to type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes increases the risk of heart disease, kidney failure, blindness and limb amputations. The longer people live with type 2 diabetes, the more likely they are to have devastating medical complications. People who are overweight are more likely to lose their sensitivity to the effects of insulin, the blood glucose (sugar)-regulating hormone. When the body ignores the hormone, blood glucose rises and, over time, can cause serious medical complications.
The good news is that changes in diet and increased exercise often can reverse impaired glucose tolerance, which, in turn, can prevent or delay the development of type 2 diabetes.
In the study, the researchers measured blood glucose levels in 55 children aged 4 to 10 years and 112 adolescents aged 11 to 18. All of the participants were obese and were white, black or Hispanic. The youngsters had all been referred to a weight-loss clinic, and were heavier than 95% of children in their age group. The investigators identified impaired glucose tolerance in 25% of the children and 21% of the adolescents. Silent type 2 diabetes was found in 4% of the obese adolescents--meaning that the patients were not aware they had diabetes.
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