Nearly 30% of US teens estimated to have prediabetes

In a worrisome trend, prediabetes among teenagers in the US has more than doubled over the last two decades to almost 30%, a new report estimates.

A research report, published in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics, estimated that the rate of prediabetes among US youth aged 12 to 19 years climbed from 11.6% in 1999 to 28.6% in 2018.

JAMA Pediatrics: Trends in prediabetes among youths in the US from 1999 through 2018

This unprecedented increase puts young people at high risk of serious health problems in the coming years, the authors note.

“If we do not intervene, the children who have prediabetes have a higher risk of developing diabetes and also have a higher risk of all cardiovascular diseases,” principal investigator Junxiu Liu told CNN. Liu is an assistant professor of population health science and policy at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.

Dr. Bret Scher, medical director of Diet Doctor, also expressed concern in his DDNews video:
“This is a troubling trend that will hopefully get the attention it deserves,” Dr. Scher said.

 “We need to open our eyes to the failure of our current recommended lifestyle and nutrition approach. This is our opportunity to expand our lifestyle advice to find an approach that resonates with teens and young adults. If we don’t solve this now, we are all in big trouble in the near future.”

Prediabetes is a health condition with generally silent symptoms. Blood sugar levels rise above the normal range but are not yet high enough to be classified as diabetes. The condition indicates that metabolic health issues are developing, potentially including insulin resistance, fatty liver, abnormal blood lipids, and abdominal obesity.

The report analyzed data collected over those years from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), considered an accurate source of health data about the US population.

Previous studies of prediabetes in youth have found higher rates in specific subpopulations of the American public, such as those with less money or education, or among different ethnicities. However, this new data shows that the increase in diabetes rates was seen in all subpopulations of young Americans, regardless of income, education, or ethnicity.

Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, the founder of Diet Doctor, called the findings “quite shocking.”

“I’d suggest fewer carbs and more protein,” said Dr. Eenfeldt. A prior study [Stentz 2020] demonstrated 100% reversal of prediabetes on a high protein diet.

How can you reverse prediabetes?

Indeed, one effective way to improve prediabetes is to prioritize protein and reduce the amount of sugar and refined carbohydrates you consume. Sugar and carbohydrates digest into glucose, which, when eaten to excess, can contribute to higher blood sugar readings.

You can lower your blood sugar by changing the way you eat, exercising regularly, and making other lifestyle changes, such as improving sleep and reducing stress. 

Children and youth usually do not need to eat a strict low carb or keto diet. Reducing sugar consumption, reducing carbohydrates to a moderate level (50 grams to 100 grams per day), and ensuring adequate protein intake can bring health and metabolic improvements.

Diet Doctor has lots of resources to help you start a low carb diet or feed a healthy low carb diet to your family.

Low-carb family dinner

Low-carb meals for families

Planning and cooking food for an entire family is often a quite time-consuming task. You don’t have to cook different things for yourself and the rest of your family.


A low-carb diet for beginners

Not all weight loss is equally heathful. Read our guide to find out how to make sure you’re losing weight in a healthy way.

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