Healthbeat: Diabetes in Kids

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It's difficult to imagine the prospect of twenty-somethings who require dialysis, heart complications or even stroke, or facing blindness. But it may be a frightening reality in coming years according to University of Oklahoma researchers. They have discovered diabetes is not the only "adult" disease they are finding in children enrolled in a landmark pediatric diabetes study. And as the study finds, the future for these youngsters may be bleak without the appropriate intervention.

Cheyenne Peterman, of Ada, has done a complete turnaround when it comes to her diet, thanks to the "Today" study. Today stands for Treatment Options for Type 2 Diabetes in Adolescents and Youth. This nationwide research effort is funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Cheyenne isn't alone. In fact, a growing number of children are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes each day. Kenneth Copeland, MD, says, "We think there are between 400 and 800 children in the state of Oklahoma with Type 2 diabetes. That means those under the age of 18 with the adult form of diabetes, that doesn't count Type 1 juvenile diabetes."

Chandra Cooks, 16, is also involved with the Today study. Chandra decided to get involved after learning her father had the disease. "I knew my dad had it but didn't realize I could get it at such a young age."

Interestingly enough, diabetes isn't the only "adult" disease researchers are finding in children. In fact, one in four of them have high blood pressure. An even higher number--3 in 5--had abnormal blood lipids (elevated triglycerides, high LDL or bad cholesterol and low LDL or good cholesterol). In addition, seven percent had evidence of liver damage when they entered the study.

Fortunately the study had helped identify these issues so they can be addressed to physicians.

Children aged 10-17 who have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes within the past two years are eligible to participate in the Today study. All children who participate get 2-6 months of state-of-the-art diabetes education. That includes information and training on healthy eating, healthy exercising, and how to test their blood sugar. That's called the run-in period. After that, the children are randomly assigned to one of three research arms.

The first group receives Metformin, a medication commonly used for Type 2 diabetes, plus a placebo. The second group receives Metformin and Rosiglitazone, an additional oral diabetes medication that is known to improve the way insulin works within the body. The third group receives Metformin plus intensive lifestyle intervention and training. While all three groups receive the baseline lifestyle education, those randomized to the third arm of the study receive an extremely high, intense level of personal attention, much like having their own personal trainer or personal psychologist for motivation.

It does not cost anything to participate in the Today study. All medications, doctor's visits, and laboratory tests for the children participating in the study are done free of charge to the participating families.

This study is being offered throughout the State of Oklahoma to all children with Type 2 diabetes. Dr. Copeland and his colleagues would like to enroll every eligible child. As part of the Oklahoma portion of this national research effort, the OU team is conducting the clinical trial, not only at the Harold H. Hamm Oklahoma Diabetes Center in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, but also in Talihina with the Choctaw Nation and in Ada with the Chickasaw Nation. Enrollment ends in September. The study concludes in 2010.

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