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Background: Excess weight (overweight and obesity) is the major modifiable risk factor for type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and other non-communicable diseases. However, excess weight may not be as predictive of diabetes risk as once thought. While excess weight and other obesity-related non-communicable diseases are of growing concern in low-middle income countries in Latin America, there is limited research on risk factors associated with T2DM in adolescents. This study investigated prevalence of overweight, obesity, prediabetes, diabetes and metabolic syndrome in adolescents in Ecuador.

Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted with 433 adolescents from two schools in a small urban center in southern Ecuador and two schools in a large urban center in Quito. Risk factors were measured, including: height, weight, BMI, waist-to-hip ratio, fasting glucose, lipid panel, and HbA1c. Multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was separately applied to risk factors and demographic factors as a set of dependent variables with sex, location and their interaction included as predictors. An independent t test was run on the data at 95% confidence intervals for the mean difference. The values for the triglycerides, LDL and VLDL were positively skewed. A Mann–Whitney U test was run on these data.

Results: Using IOTF standards, 9.8% were overweight and 1.9% were obese. Only 1.6% of the sample met the criteria for prediabetes by fasting glucose but 12.4% of the sample met the criteria for prediabetes by HbA1c. None of the participants met criteria for diabetes. There were 2.3% of the participants that met the IDF criteria for metabolic syndrome. Adolescents from the larger urban center had higher rates of prediabetes, higher mean HbA1c, blood pressure, lipid values, and lower HDL levels.

Conclusions: Use of HbA1c identifed more adolescents with prediabetes than FBG. The HbA1c measure is an attractive screening tool for prediabetes in developing countries. Although rates of obesity in Ecuadorian adolescents are low there is significant evidence to suggest that prediabetes is permeating the smaller urban centers. Traditional screening tools may underestimate this risk.


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Publisher's Statement

Originally published in Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome, 9 [Article 24]. Licensed under CC BY 4.0. The original material can be found here.