Pre-Diabetes and Overweight Kids

Being overweight or obese is the primary reason why children and adolescents are being diagnosed with pre-diabetes. Thirty years ago it was extremely uncommon to see a child with pre-diabetes. Today healthcare practitioners not only see children and adolescents with pre-diabetes, they diagnose and treat type 2 diabetes in this very population. Type 2 diabetes was once regarded as an adult-onset form of diabetes, and not a form of diabetes that affected children or adolescents. According to data from the 2007 National Diabetes Fact Sheet, approximately 2 million adolescents (or 1 in 6 overweight adolescents) have pre-diabetes.

My child has pre-diabetes. Does this mean he will develop type 2 diabetes?

Progressing from pre-diabetes to type 2 diabetes is not inevitable for children (or adults). The earlier pre-diabetes is addressed, the more possible it is to reverse. Children learn and copy parental behavior whether it's good or bad. If your child has pre-diabetes, help him get started with healthier lifestyle choices by setting a good example yourself.

Advances in medicine have contributed to the gradual increase in longevity for each successive generation. Now, however, this trend is about to change, and for the first time in decades, we can anticipate that today's children will develop health issues, chronic diseases, and complications at a much earlier age in life than their parents or grandparents. Earlier onset of chronic disease will mean a decline in the life expectancies of younger generations. The increased amount of obesity and pre-diabetes in our children will play a major role in this unfortunate development.

Pre-diabetes in children is determined in the same manner as in adults. Laboratory blood tests, and determination of overweight or obese status provide early clues of possible pre-diabetes. Like adults, treating pre-diabetes in children involves working on better lifestyle choices:

  • Limiting fast foods, high-calorie, or empty-calorie foods and snacks

  • Including more lower-calorie foods such as fruits and vegetables on a daily basis

  • Getting physical activity for at least an hour every day

  • Cutting down on TV or video-game time every day

  • The key to helping children make lifestyle changes is get them engaged and involved in the process. Letting children help with (safe) food preparation tasks in the kitchen, or asking them to go along grocery shopping to select healthy snacks are examples of how a child can be involved. The Alliance for a Healthier Generation ( and Let's Move ( are helpful websites offering practical ideas to help parents and their children work toward healthy lifestyle behaviors.

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