OBJECTIVE

To describe features of pediatric-onset type 2 diabetes in the Hispanic population.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS

The medical records of 55 Hispanic subjects with diabetes who were treated from 1990 to 1994 in a pediatric clinic serving lower income Mexican-Americans were reviewed to assess the frequency and clinical features of type 2 diabetes. Additionally, nondiabetic siblings of several patients underwent oral glucose tolerance testing, and a survey of six high schools in the same county was performed.

RESULTS

Seventeen of 55 (31%) of the diabetic children and adolescents had type 2 diabetes. An additional 4 Hispanic children with type 2 diabetes treated in other clinics were also identified, yielding a total of 21 subjects who were used to describe the characteristics of childhood type 2 diabetes. At presentation, all were obese (mean BMI 32.9 ± 6.2 kg/m2), 62% had no ketonuria, and fasting C-peptide levels were elevated (4.28 ± 3.43 ng/ml). Diabetes was easily controlled with diet, sulfonylureas, or low-dose insulin. No autoantibodies were present in those tested, and family histories were positive for type 2 diabetes. Compliance was poor, and 3 subjects developed diabetic complications. Of the tested siblings, 2 of 8 had impaired glucose tolerance and 5 of 8 had stimulated hyperinsulinemia, correlated with BMI (r = 0.80, P < 0.05). The school survey identified 28 diabetic adolescents, 75% more than expected (P < 0.01). The Hispanic enrollment at each school was highly correlated with the number of diabetic students (r = 0.87, P = 0.011).

CONCLUSIONS

Genetic susceptibility to type 2 diabetes, when coupled with obesity, can produce type 2 diabetes in Mexican-American children. This diagnosis should be considered in young Hispanic patients, who might otherwise be assumed to have type 1 diabetes, and also when caring for overweight Hispanic youth with a family history of type 2 diabetes, in whom intervention may prevent or delay diabetes onset.

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