Study Finds Children Diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes Are at High Risk of Earlier Complications

About 210,000 Americans under the age of 20 have been diagnosed with diabetes. While many live with type 1, about 6,000 are diagnosed with type 2 each year. A new study finds that for children living with type 2 diabetes, the odds of developing complications earlier in life are high.

A team from Baylor College of Medicine tracked 500 people who had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes as children, finding that the majority of them had at least one complication associated with the disease within 15 years. About 30% of participants had at least two. The findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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Dr. Fida Bacha, study co-investigator and associate professor of pediatrics-endocrinology and diabetes at Baylor and Texas Children’s Hospital, says, “These complication rates have huge implications for not just the health but also the healthcare cost and loss of productivity for adults who develop type 2 diabetes in childhood.”

To conduct the research, the team tracked 500 participants from the Treatment Options for Type 2 Diabetes in Adolescents and Youth (TODAY) study. That began in 2004 and investigated the effectiveness of diabetes treatments in youth. Participants were between the ages of 10 and 17, had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes for fewer than two years, and were overweight or obese. For TODAY2, they were monitored on a yearly basis for signs of diabetes complications, including heart disease, kidney disease, and foot issues. At the seven-year visit, they were also examined for diabetic eye disease.

The average age of participants after the TODAY2 follow-up was 26.

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Researchers say that after 15 years, there was a steady decline in control of blood sugar, and 67% of participants had high blood pressure. Just over half had high fat levels in the blood, with roughly the same percentage experiencing kidney or eye disease. About a third had evidence of nerve disease.

Researchers say this is problematic for a broad range of populations.

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Dr. Siripoom McKay, principal investigator and assistant professor of pediatrics-diabetes and endocrinology at Baylor and Texas Children’s, says, “Type 2 diabetes tends to be more prevalent in Hispanics, African Americans and many Asian communities than in European Americans. TODAY findings are particularly relevant to Houston with its racially and ethnically diverse young population. TODAY’s original findings showed that Type 2 diabetes in childhood is more aggressive than in adulthood.”

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Researchers note that because participants had free comprehensive diabetes care throughout the TODAY study, the rate of complications may have actually been lower than it would have otherwise.

They also say that more studies need to be done to determine how best to ensure a healthier future for children with type 2 diabetes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers some tips on reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes in kids. Those include drinking more water rather than sugary drinks, having a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, getting kids involved in making healthy meals, not using food as a reward, and planning outdoor activities like biking or hiking.

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