Originally Released: July 2, 1997
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Overweight children are at a higher risk of developing diabetes as adults. Now, with a $1 million study funded by the National Institutes of Health, doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center are looking at ways to prevent diabetes by making lifestyle changes in children who are at high risk. The goals of the University of Maryland Medical Center study reflect the new national guidelines by the American Diabetes Association to identify and treat people with diabetes before complications occur.
The new five-year study will evaluate whether weight loss and other lifestyle changes can prevent adult-onset diabetes, also known as type II or non-insulin dependent diabetes, in obese African American children. About 16 million people in the United States have diabetes. Non-insulin dependent diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and can lead to kidney failure, blindness, stroke and amputations. During the study, children and their parents will learn about healthy food choices, exercises they can do, and other behavioral modifications. The study will enroll about 200 children in three groups, each receiving a different intensity of intervention.
"Children who are overweight need to produce a lot more insulin in order to keep their blood sugar under control," says Stuart Chalew, M.D., professor of Pediatrics and principal investigator of the study.
As these overweight children become adults, they tend to exercise less, gain more weight and may reach a point where they cannot make and release enough insulin to keep the blood sugar levels normal, according to Dr. Chalew. So the blood sugar levels continue to rise and the children become adults with diabetes.
"If we can get kids who are at high risk to change their eating and exercise habits and slim down before they become adults, we hope they will be less likely to get diabetes," says Dr. Chalew.
Approximately half of the 16 million people in the United States who have diabetes do not know it. Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches, and other foods into the energy needed for daily life. Obesity, as well as lack of exercise and a family history of the disease are risk factors for diabetes. African Americans are at higher risk for developing the disease.
The symptoms of diabetes are frequent urination, excess thirst, extreme hunger, weight loss, fatigue, irritability, frequent infections, blurred vision, cuts or bruises that are slow to heal and tingling/numbness in the hands or feet.
Eligible participants for the University of Maryland Medical Center study are African American children between age 5 and 10 who are overweight but who do not have diabetes. For more information about the study or to participate, call 410-328-8202.
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