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Child Diabetes Rates Higher in China than in the United States

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While rising rates of diabetes and prediabetes in U.S. children have been causing alarm in recent years, youth in China appear to be faring far worse.

For Chinese teenagers the rate of diabetes is nearly four times higher than it is for their counterparts in the U.S., say researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who examined data from the 2009 China Health and Nutrition Survey.

“[Our] findings suggest a very high burden of chronic disease risk starting at a young age, with 1.7 million Chinese children ages 7–18 having diabetes and another 27.7 million considered prediabetic,” said lead study author Barry Popkin, PhD, in a statement. The study found that 1.9% of Chinese children aged 12–18 had diabetes, compared with 0.5% of children in the U.S.

“What is unprecedented is the changes in diet, weight and cardiovascular risk for children age 7 and older,” said Popkin. “These estimates highlight the huge burden that China’s health care system is expected to face if nothing changes.”

Popkin and his colleagues found that in China, 42% of children, 70% of men aged 18–40, 60% of women aged 18–40 and more than 90% of men and women aged 60 and older had at least one of the following conditions: prediabetes; diabetes; hypertension; high total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and C-reactive protein; or low HDL cholesterol.

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor, and IDEA's director of event programming.

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