New government research delivers some concerning news for U.S. teens -- almost 1 in 5 has prediabetes.
Young adults fared even worse -- 1 in 4 of those aged 19 to 34 have prediabetes, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report found.
A person with prediabetes has higher than normal blood sugar levels. The levels aren't yet high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes. But often, people who have prediabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes.
"Prediabetes is very prevalent among adolescents and young adults. We want people to know that this is a serious health condition that raises the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke," said study author Linda Andes, a statistician with the CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation.
The good news? "Prediabetes can be reversed," she said. "This can be a wake-up call to motivate people into action -- eating a healthier diet, getting more physical activity and losing weight."
The researchers used data from nationally representative nutrition surveys that included almost 6,000 teens and young adults. Blood sugar levels were assessed with three different testing methods. Other tests, such as blood pressure and cholesterol, were also done.
The study found that 18% of teens had prediabetes. For young adults, that number was 24%.
Obese teens and young adults were more likely to have prediabetes. Male teens and young adults were far more likely to have prediabetes than females.
Adolescents and young adults with prediabetes also had higher cholesterol and blood pressure, and carried more weight around their abdomen.
"The most significant issue I see is that even if a person does not go on to develop diabetes, prediabetes itself is associated with increased cardiometabolic risks in many people," said Dr. Mary Pat Gallagher, director of the pediatric diabetes center at NYU Langone's Hassenfeld Children's Hospital in New York City.
"This means that this group of people should undergo more careful screening and receive more intensive counseling about changes in lifestyle that could improve their health," she said.