Using hemoglobin A1c for prediabetes and diabetes diagnosis in adolescents: can adult recommendations be upheld for pediatric use?

J Adolesc Health. 2012 Apr;50(4):321-3. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.02.009.


The obesity epidemic has resulted in more young people having high-risk profiles for the development of type 2 diabetes. Screening to promote earlier diagnosis and treatment of type 2 diabetes is of significant importance, as untreated disease leads to metabolic, microvascular, and macrovascular complications. However, the choice of screening methodology in adolescents is controversial, and implementation of screening protocols is not uniform. Expert panels have recommended the use of glycated hemoglobin (A1c) for the diagnosis of prediabetes and diabetes, based on the facts that the A1c assay has technical advantages and correlates well with the risk of microvascular diabetes. However, these recommendations are based strictly on data from adult studies and lack any input based on pediatric research. The pediatric research that has been published on the topic indicates that using adult cutoff points for A1c values to predict prediabetes or diabetes significantly underestimates the prevalence of these conditions in the pediatric and adolescent population. Therefore, we call for further investigation of the role of A1c for the diagnosis of prediabetes and diabetes in adolescents before its adoption as a principal diagnostic method in pediatric populations. We contend that a more comprehensive diabetes evaluation, along with A1c, remains necessary for screening adolescents at high risk for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Collaborative multicentered studies of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes in the obese pediatric population are especially needed to determine the A1c cutoff points, as well as other diagnostic measures, that best predict diabetes-related comorbid conditions later in life.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / diagnosis
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Prediabetic State / blood*
  • Prediabetic State / diagnosis


  • Glycated Hemoglobin A
  • hemoglobin A1c protein, human