Obese teens show risk factors for heart disease and type 2 diabetes

Childhood obesity is becoming increasingly common in the U.S. Now, a new study has found that the condition may be putting millions of teenagers at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, and that a poor diet is largely to blame.

Just a few years ago, type 2 diabetes was almost unheard of among teenagers. However, obesity rates are trending up and researchers say that this puts many young people at risk for developing the chronic disease.

For the study, researchers from the Children's Hospital and Researcher Center Oakland compared the diets and blood samples of 33 obese teenagers to those of 19 healthy weight young people. The blood samples tested for insulin resistance, C-reactive protein and homocysteine levels, all of which can increase the odds of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

The researchers found that the majority of obese teens had some degree of insulin resistance. Additionally, their C-reactive protein levels, which are an important measure of inflammation in the cardiovascular system, were 10 times higher than those of healthy weight teens. Homocysteine levels, which predict heart disease risk, were 62 percent higher among obese adolescents.

While both groups of young people tended to eat poor diets, overweight participants ate the worst. They consumed fewer fruits, vegetables and dairy products than their healthy weight peers. This left them with inadequate levels of potassium and vitamins A, C and D.

"The metabolic abnormalities suggest that the process of developing heart disease has already started in these children, making it critical for them to make definitive lifestyle and diet changes," said Ashutosh Lal, who led the study. "Looking at the numbers you would think these children might feel sick."

Lal added that consuming more antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables could help these teens reduce inflammation and limit their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.