Defeat Diabetes

The kids aren’t alright: Study shows teenage type 2 diabetes has shocking complications

2 mins read

  • Type 2 diabetes in youth is on the increase, with the median age of diagnosis in youths 14-years-old.
  • Long-term type 2 diabetes complications are greatest for those diagnosed at a young age with alarmingly higher rates and severity.
  • Medication “helps, but only marginally” study data suggests early and aggressive interventions to be applied before middle age.
  • Evidence demonstrates the effectiveness of a low carb dietary approach for prevention and management of type 2 diabetes.

Although the prevalence of type 2 diabetes in youth is increasing, not much is known about the long-term complications of youth-onset type 2 diabetes. Newly published data in the New England Journal of Medicine has revealed complications do in fact worsen as those diagnosed with T2D in their youth enter adulthood.

There’s a “serious personal and public health consequence”, and the findings support the need to “take a more aggressive approach than people may be inclined to”, say researchers.


We’ve dived into the data to bring you the latest evidence that suggests preventing early-onset type 2 diabetes should be a priority for health departments globally.

What did the research find?

The US-based study followed a group of teenagers from 2004 to 2011, with a follow-up study from 2011 to 2020.

Among participants who had onset of type 2 diabetes in youth, the results found:

  • Participants average fasting blood sugar reading increased over time
  • More than two-thirds had hypertension
  • Half had an abnormal level of cholesterol
  • Overall, 60% had at least one diabetic complication such as eye disease, neuropathy, or diabetic kidney disease
  • More than a quarter had two or more such complications

Why does it matter?

These results show the high burden of diabetes-specific complications and the serious consequences of youth-onset type 2 diabetes. These results are concerning not only because of the severe effects on people living with the disease, but they also pose a significant public health implication.

In summary

The negative effect of diabetes is greatest for those diagnosed at a young age. These results highlight the need to prevent early-onset diabetes.

The study discusses metabolic bariatric surgery as an intervention for young people with type 2 diabetes resulting in weight loss and improvements in glycemic control, but surgery is extreme. Imagine if we could intervene even sooner. It’s entirely possible – with a preventative diet.

The Defeat Diabetes Program is an example of a preventative intervention that can help patients put their type 2 diabetes into remission.

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