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Preventing Type 2 Diabetes in Children

Type 2 diabetes is increasing in alarming numbers in children and teenagers. This is largely due to obesity, which is also increasing in the United States. Type 2 diabetes is a disorder in which the body is not able to make enough insulin or to properly use insulin to turn the glucose in food into energy. It used to be a disease that only affected middle-aged and older adults.

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that one out of three children born in 2000 will develop diabetes—mostly type 2 diabetes— in their lifetime. Those numbers will only increase unless we start doing a better job at prevention.

Research points the way to what to do. Studies here at Joslin Diabetes Center—the global leader in diabetes research, care and education—and elsewhere show that modest weight loss and regular, moderate exercise (like walking) can cut the risk of someone developing diabetes by more than half. Though these studies weren’t done on children and teens, we suspect the same strategies will work just as well for them.

Children At Risk

  • Are overweight, in the 85th percentile or above for their age and sex. 
  • Have parents or close blood relatives with type 2 diabetes
  • Are African American, Mexican American, Latino, Native American or Native Alaskan, Asian American or Pacific Islander
  • Have higher-than-normal blood glucose levels, blood pressure and cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Were under 5 pounds or over 10 pounds at birth
  • Are girls who have polycystic ovary syndrome (a hormone disorder that may affect the menstrual cycle, unusual hair growth, fertility and insulin production)

Page last updated: November 23, 2014