Study Finds Type 2 Diabetes Harder to Treat in Overweight Teens

New research suggests heavier teens may struggle more after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, CBS News reports.

According to the media outlet, diagnosing a teen with type 2 diabetes was a rare occurrence only 15 years ago. But today, one-third of U.S. children and teens are either overweight or obese, and could be on track to develop type 2 diabetes – a condition in which the body can't produce enough insulin on its own.

In a study released on April 29 in the New England Journal of Medicine, experts analyzed several ways to maintain a healthy blood sugar level in overweight and obese teens who have recently been diagnosed with the disease. The findings showed nearly half of the teens failed to properly manage their blood sugar within a few years, and one in five suffered from serious complications. The findings, the researchers said, could be problematic for the U.S., which is currently facing unprecedented rates of "diabesity," or type 2 diabetes that is spurred by obesity.

Treatment for the condition most commonly starts with metformin, which is used to lower blood sugar. If these measures fail, more drugs and daily shots of insulin may become necessary. If high blood sugar is not tended to, it can result in vision loss, nerve damage, kidney failure, limb amputation, heart attacks or strokes.

According to CBS, researchers analyzed 699 overweight and obese teens who were recently diagnosed with diabetes. All were treated first with metformin, then were given one of three further treatments: metformin by itself, the drug with diet and exercise changes or metformin alongside diabetes drug Avandia.

After nearly four years, half of those in the metformin group struggled to control their blood sugar, while the numbers were only slightly better for the other two groups.

"Two drugs right off the bat, that's an important finding," said Dr. Robin Goland, professor of clinical medicine and pediatrics at Columbia University in New York City. "Taking medicines chronically, especially two drugs, would be very difficult for a teenager."

Diabetes drugs, such as Avandia, that are used to control the disease have also been at the front of a number of lawsuits. After Avandia was found to be linked to a higher risk of heart attacks, many turned to what was said to be a safer alternative: Actos. However, further studies on the drug concluded it is linked to a higher risk of bladder cancer, which has had a significant impact on its manufacturer, Takeda Pharmaceutical Company.