LOS ANGELES — New research sends a stark warning to overweight teens: If you develop diabetes, you'll have a very tough time keeping it under control.
A major study, released Sunday, tested several ways to manage blood sugar in teens newly diagnosed with diabetes and found that nearly half of them failed within a few years and 1 in 5 suffered serious complications. The results spell trouble for a nation facing rising rates of "diabesity" — Type 2 diabetes brought on by obesity.
The federally funded study is the largest look yet at how to treat diabetes in teens. Earlier studies mostly have been in adults, and most diabetes drugs aren't even approved for youths. The message is clear: Prevention is everything.
"Don't get diabetes in the first place," said Dr. Phil Zeitler of the University of Colorado Denver, one of the study leaders.
A third of American children and teens are overweight or obese. They are at higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, in which the body can't make enough insulin or use what it does make to process sugar from food. Until the obesity epidemic, doctors rarely saw children with Type 2 diabetes. The more common kind of diabetes in children is Type 1, which used to be called juvenile diabetes.
Doctors usually start Type 2 treatment with metformin, a pill to lower blood sugar. If it still can't be controlled, other drugs and daily insulin shots may be needed. The longer blood sugar runs rampant, the greater the risk of suffering vision loss, nerve damage, kidney failure, limb amputation — even heart attacks and strokes.
The goal of the study was simple: What's the best way for teens to keep diabetes in check?
The study involved 699 overweight and obese teens recently diagnosed with diabetes.
The results were published online Sunday by the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at a pediatric meeting in Boston. The National Institutes of Health funded the study and drug companies donated the medications.