Magazine article Science News

Early Warning of Type II Diabetes?

Magazine article Science News

Early Warning of Type II Diabetes?

Article excerpt

Early warning of Type II diabetes?

The Pima Indians of southern Arizona have the world's highest rate of Type II diabetes (SN: 6/2/90, p.350). More than 50 percent of Pimas aged 35 and older suffer from this non-insulin-dependent, adult-onset form of diabetes, which involves high blood sugar levels and causes such symptoms as blurry vision, numbness and drowsiness.

Now, evidence indicates that an early warning of Type II diabetes may appear among Pima children decades before the full-blown disease strikes.

In the new study, healthy, nondiabetic Pima youngsters showed significant levels of insulin resistance, a condition in which cells respond sluggishly to insulin's sugaar-uptake message (SN: 6/23/90, p.389). This finding fits with the notion that many people with insulin resistance eventually go on to develop full-fledged Type II diabetes, says Peter H. Bennett, who heads the Phoenix-based clinical research branch of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).

David J. Pettitt of NIDDK's Phoenix branch compared 439 nondiabetic Pima children and young adults, aged 6 to 19, with 449 age-matched nondiabetic Caucasians living in Rochester, Minn. He and his colleagues discovered that, on average, the Pima youths had blood insulin levels 15 to 20 percent higher than their Caucasian peers. The finding, they say, suggests that Pima children are prone to insulin resistance.

"Already at this young age, [Pima] don't handle glucose as well," Pettitt told SCIENCE NEWS.

The new research raises the question of whether large numbers of Pimas are born with insulin resistance, Bennett says. The researchers plan to test Pima newborns to see if they have higher blood insulin levels than Caucasian infants, he adds.

The results also support the belief that some people inherit a predisposition to insulin resistance, comments diabetes researcher Jay S. …

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