Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect Mueller works at the Austin Regional Clinic.
AUSTIN (KXAN) — Family doctor Barbara Kiersz Mueller at the Austin Regional Clinic says she was torn when she read a new study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
The findings weren’t what perplexed her, but she knows talking to teenagers about their weight is a delicate subject that could lead to another problem.
Researchers analyzed health records of 5,786 adolescents in the United States from ages 12 to 18 and young adults ages 19 to 34. They found about 1 of 5 adolescents and 1 of 4 young adults have prediabetes, “the prevalence of prediabetes in male individuals was almost twice that in female individuals.”
Prediabetes is a condition of high sugar levels in the blood. Doctors say it can develop into type 2 diabetes which can lead to heart disease and kidney disease.
The conclusion that prediabetes is highly prevalent in adolescents and young adults wasn’t surprising to Mueller because she says she sees it everyday.
“I actually have seen children who are heavier than me and not taller than me — which is sad and concerning at the same time,” she said.
Her youngest prediabetic patient was six years old.
Mueller says the study only amplified how she talks to her young overweight or obese patients about their eating habits, especially teenagers.
“I do things a little bit different because I know my words matter and can maybe steer them in the opposite direction particularly with teens and high eating disorder rates. I really try not to negatively use the word ‘fat,’ she said.
The doctor says she focuses on listening to her patients and finding out if there is underline issue to their over eating such as bullying and then steers them toward help including a nutritionist to explain the importance of healthy foods.
Health experts say prediabetes can be reversed especially in children and young adults under the guidance of a health plan.