Posted on September 22, 2014

A collaborative study conducted by Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar (WCMC-Q) and Qatar Diabetes Association (QDA) has found that up to 4.2 per cent of secondary school students could be prediabetic. Prediabetes is a condition in which blood sugar level is elevated more than normal but not sufficiently high to be labeled as diabetes.

The research involved four independent schools and a total study sample of 1,694 students aged between 11 and 18. In all 56 boys and 15 girls were found to have the high blood-sugar levels associated with prediabetes. Significantly, the researchers were also able to identify the risk factors associated with prediabetes. The knowledge could help prevent a disease that afflicts between 15 and 17 per cent of Qatar’s population.

The study, published in the prestigious Journal of Royal Society of Medicine has been authored by Drs. Javaid Sheikh, Ravinder Mamtani and Sohaila Cheema from WCMC-Q and Dr. Abdulla Al-Hamaq, Sharoud Matthis and Katie El-Nahas from QDA. Dr. Mamtani, Associate Dean for Global and Public Health at WCMC-Q, said: “I think the research was on a topic of huge public health importance to Qatar and the wider region. It was also a reflection of collaborative research with our partners in Qatar.

WCMC-Q and QDA research uncovers risk [].jpg

“The purpose was to ascertain the prevalence of prediabetes among children attending schools aged between 11 and 18.” The researchers used a questionnaire to collect the demographic and health information, for example the weight and height of a student, how much exercise they did and their basic lifestyle. After all the data was collated and analyzed, it was found that 4.2 per cent of the total number of students were prediabetic. However, being male significantly increases the risk. Of the 974 boys in the study, 56 were found to be prediabetic - or 6 per cent. Of the 720 girls, 15 were prediabetic, or 2 per cent.

Apart from being male, other characteristics associated with pre-diabetes was having a parent who was diabetic and having a girth to height ratio greater than 0.5. This means that a child who is 160cm tall should have a waist measurement of no more than 80cm. Dr. Mamtani said: “We think that this has implications. Knowing that there are certain risk factors among children might make it worthwhile to target those children in lifestyle programs. Secondly, when those risks are identified, pediatricians should take those risk factors into account, when evaluating children.”

Dr. Al Hamaq said: “The percentage of children who had prediabetes was significant but that it would encourage QDA to work even harder to reduce the percentage via prevention or intervention programs.” Just because those with the prediabetic condition were more likely to have certain characteristics does not mean that they were the only risks associated with the condition. Dr. Sohaila Cheema, Director of Global and Public Health at WCMC-Q, said that regular exercise and a balanced, nutritious diet played a huge role in the prevention and progression of type 2 diabetes.

She said: “We found that children who exercised daily tended to have lower weight than those who did not, a smaller girth and so were making the right lifestyle choices. Habits are formed within our formative years so it is important to encourage children to make the right lifestyle choices while they are still young.” The research was conducted in four independent schools and of the 1,694 participants, 988 were Qatari citizens and 706 came from mostly Middle Eastern countries. Strikingly, almost half of the students were overweight. In the case of the boys, 46 per cent were either overweight or obese. In the girls, 44 per cent were classed as overweight or obese.

QDA is set to expand the study and conduct it in more detail, asking participants for more information about their diet, frequency and type of exercise they do and other lifestyle choices. There will also be advice for those who are prediabetic. Dr. Al Hamaq added: For prediabetic children, QDA will conduct an intervention program to delay the onset of diabetes, and for diabetic children we have already set up programs, such as Al-Bawasil Annual Camp to delay the onset of the complications.

The full, original study entitled Adolescent prediabetes in a high-risk Middle East country: a cross sectional study, can be read here: