BACKGROUND: The incidence of childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes is an increasing problem in Europe. We determined the prevalence of impaired glucose regulation in a predominantly Caucasian cohort of 491 children and adolescents with obesity. METHODS: Fasting glucose and insulin levels were determined in all 491 subjects. Patients with an abnormal fasting glucose or with additional risk factors (positive family history of type 2 diabetes, acanthosis nigricans, hyperlipidemia; n=102) underwent an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT; 1.75 g glucose/kg body weight). Homeostasis model assessment was used to estimate insulin resistance in all subjects. The insulin sensitivity index was determined in those subjects who underwent an OGTT. Screening for mutations in the melanocortin 4 receptor (MC4R) gene and the coding region of the brain-derived neutrophic factor (BDNF) in 37 patients with an impaired glucose tolerance was performed by WAVE analysis. RESULTS: Out of the total of 491 patients, 12 had an abnormal fasting glucose level. Of the 102 patients who underwent an OGTT, 37 had impaired glucose tolerance; 6 out of the 102 patients were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Eighty-eight per cent of patients with abnormal glucose tolerance and 66% of patients with type 2 diabetes were Caucasian. Insulin resistance indices correlated well with the degree of abnormal glucose tolerance. Using the screening algorithm for type 2 diabetes as advocated by the American Diabetes Association, 68% of patients with impaired glucose tolerance and 66% of patients with type 2 diabetes would have been missed. No abnormalities in the MC4R and BDNF genes were detected. CONCLUSIONS: Impaired glucose tolerance and type 2 diabetes are far more common in obese European children of Caucasian origin than previously thought. Using fasting glucose levels as the main screening tool appears to be insufficient in detecting these children.
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