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Kids and Type 2 Diabetes: An Epidemic?

Type 2 diabetes was not identified in children until the late 1970s and was first reported among the U.S. Pima Indians and Canadian First Nation People. There are no large-scale population studies relating to the prevalence of type 2 diabetes among young people. However, according to the American Diabetes Association Consensus Statement on “Type 2 Diabetes in Children and Adolescents,” some findings suggest that 8 percent to 45 percent of all new cases of diabetes in children are type 2.

What is known is that the incidence of type 2 diabetes is increasing among children. Dan Hale, M.D., a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, tracked new cases of diabetes among youths from 1990 to 1997. Type 2 diabetes accounted for 18 percent of all new diagnoses. In 1990, there was only one case of type 2 diabetes, while in 1997, 30 new cases in children were diagnosed.

The state of Texas has a high population of Mexican-Americans who are at increased risk of diabetes. In 1999, the state legislature funded a two-year program to screen children in nine border counties for acanthosis nigricans (AN), a condition that appears as a dark ring around the neck or as dark, rough, thickened patches on areas of skin exposed to constant friction. AN is a marker of suspected insulin resistance, which is an accepted risk factor for type 2 diabetes. In the first year, 14.4 percent of the 102,733 children screened had AN.

These statistics follow national trends for adults. A study published in August 2000 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that type 2 diabetes increased by 70 percent among people 30 to 39, 40 percent for those aged 40 to 49, and 31 percent for individuals 50 to 59.

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