FRIDAY, Dec. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors have long been concerned that increasing rates of childhood obesity could fuel a diabetes epidemic.
Study results have now underscored that fear.
Researchers have found that the length of time a person carries excess weight directly contributes to an increased risk for type 2 diabetes.
In other words, because today's children are expected to receive a larger lifetime "dose" of obesity, their chances of developing diabetes at some point in their lives will be greater.
Dr. John E. Anderson, vice president of medicine and science for the American Diabetes Association, said that the findings reflect what is already happening in society, with more young children and teenagers diagnosed with type 2 diabetes than ever before.
"A disease that used to be confined to older people is creeping into high schools," Anderson said. "At best, this is alarming. This obesity epidemic we have is fueling an epidemic of diabetes in young people."
Obesity among children and adolescents has almost tripled since 1980, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Today, nearly one in five American kids ages 2 to 19 -- or about 12.5 million -- are obese.
Obesity has long been linked with the development of type 2 diabetes, which occurs when the body gradually loses its ability to properly use insulin to convert blood sugar into fuel, a condition known as insulin resistance.
"Extra weight gets in the way of the ability of tissues to absorb insulin and use it to convert glucose," Anderson said. "The more obese you are, the more insulin resistant you can become."
But researchers now are finding that the time spent carrying extra weight matters as much as the amount of extra weight itself.
A research team at the University of Michigan that studied the health records of about 8,000 teens and young adu
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