Improving physical fitness, insulin sensitivity may help latino children at risk for type 2 diabetes

October 14, 2003

Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Oct. 14-Reducing insulin resistance and boosting the fitness of overweight Latino children at high risk for type 2 diabetes will be crucial in efforts to protect them from diabetes and heart disease, according to investigators from the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.

The USC research team, which is conducting expansive studies on the patterns of metabolic change among Latino children and teens, presented initial results from their investigations today at the 2003 Annual Meeting for the North American Association for the Study of Obesity, or NAASO. Their findings highlight a weighty quandary for the nation: How to help Latino children who are being hit especially hard by a vicious circle of obesity, insulin resistance, metabolic challenges and heightened disease risk.

"Obesity is now a critical, common nutritional problem in children," says Michael I. Goran, Ph.D., professor of preventive medicine and physiology and biophysics at the Keck School and study presenter. "It disproportionately affects minority groups and is the major contributor to the recent emergence of type 2 diabetes among children. We need to do something now to understand and prevent these chronic diseases."

Reports have recently drawn attention to the nation's mounting problem of expanding waistlines. The latest estimates suggest that nearly a third of African-American and Latino kids are overweight, and many are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes-once exclusively an adult disease-during puberty.

Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic problem that results when the body cannot make enough insulin or its cells become resistant to insulin. Insulin is a hormone the body uses to bring glucose, or sugar, from the blood into tissues to be used as an energy source.

Keck School researchers wanted to better understand causes of metabolic problems among Latino children. Latinos are twice as likely as non-Latino whites to develop diabetes. With funding from the National Institutes of Health, they are studying more than 200 healthy Latino children ages 8 to 13 in Los Angeles.

Among the USC researchers' findings presented at NAASO:

"We knew this was a high-risk population, but the extent of these risk factors and the magnitude of the health problems was bigger than we expected," says Goran, associate director of the USC Institute for Prevention Research. "These overweight children are effectively 'walking time-bombs,' and the metabolic basis of these risk factors must be targeted in interventions."
-end-
"Obesity, Insulin Resistance and the Metabolic Syndrome in Overweight Hispanic Children," part of the Childhood Obesity: Obesity/Diabetes Relationships symposium, 2003 Annual Meeting of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity, 4 pm - 5:45 pm, Oct. 14. For further information on the NAASO meeting, visit www.naaso.org.

University of Southern California

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