Diabetes prevention efforts need to be started at a young age, according to the authors of a study that found an unexpected 4.6% prevalence of prediabetes in primary school children.

The observational study presented at the 55th Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) in Barcelona, also identified differences in the conditions experienced by men and women with prediabetes and diabetes.

Over 11,000 people, aged between six and 80 years old, underwent a thorough clinical examination and it was determined whether each subject had prediabetes or diabetes, or not, and any additional conditions were identified and recorded. 

Comorbidities studied included hypertension, congestive heart failure, arrhythmia, osteoporosis, kidney dysfunction, anxiety and depression. It is possible that gender differences in lifestyle and behaviour, as well as biological differences between sexes, could result in differing rates of comorbidities.

Rates of type 2 diabetes in children are on the rise

The results showed the prevalence of prediabetes to be 23.6% in males and 17.1% in females, while the prevalence of diabetes was 7.3% in males and 3.7% in females. Notably, the prevalence of prediabetes was found to be 4.6% in children aged 6-10 years. It has previously been reported that rates of type 2 diabetes in children are on the rise.

The authors of the study, conducted by Dr Olina Ofenheimer of the Sigmund Freud University Medical School, Vienna, and colleagues, found that angina, heart attack and calcification of the arteries were more prevalent in diabetic men than diabetic women, as well as mild anxiety and reduced cognitive processing speed.

In addition, like the comorbidity profile of prediabetic females, women with diabetes had a higher prevalence of arrhythmia, and elevated signs of systemic inflammation compared with diabetic men. Prediabetic women also showed a higher prevalence of osteoporosis and depression compared with prediabetic men.

They added: "The unexpected 4.6% prevalence of prediabetes in children aged 6-10 underscores the need for population-based studies across all ages and the importance of starting diabetes prevention efforts at a young age, through a healthy lifestyle and diet for all, including children."