The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Over a quarter of 12-to-19-year-olds have prediabetes, research shows

Placeholder while article actions load

U.S. residents on the cusp of developing Type 2 diabetes include about 28 percent of youths ages 12 to 19, according to research published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

They have a condition known as prediabetes, which means that the level of sugar (glucose) in their blood is higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as having full-fledged diabetes. The researchers found that the percentage of youths with prediabetes has more than doubled in recent years, going from just under 12 percent in 1999 to 28 percent by 2018.

Half of all healthy 45-year-olds will develop prediabetes

It was found to be more prevalent among boys than girls and among youths who are overweight or obese. Among adults, about 96 million (or more than 1 in 3) have prediabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At any age, people with prediabetes are not only more likely to progress to Type 2 diabetes but also are at higher risk for heart disease. Also, most people who have prediabetes do not know it because the condition usually has no symptoms.

In most cases, prediabetes stems from the body’s problems with turning glucose, which comes from the foods you eat, into energy. That requires the hormone insulin to help move glucose from the bloodstream to the cells. If the body does not make enough insulin or cannot use it as it should (called insulin resistance), too much glucose remains in the bloodstream. Then, various blood tests would indicate prediabetes or diabetes. That progression is not inevitable.

To reverse prediabetes, lifestyle changes can make a big difference

Health experts say that medication may sometimes be needed to manage blood sugar levels. But for others, lifestyle changes — including a healthier diet, regular physical activity and, if needed, weight loss — may prevent diabetes from developing.

This article is part of The Post’s “Big Number” series, which takes a brief look at the statistical aspect of health issues. Additional information and relevant research are available through the hyperlinks.