Type 2 diabetes in prepubertal children

Pediatr Diabetes. 2021 Nov;22(7):946-950. doi: 10.1111/pedi.13254. Epub 2021 Sep 2.


Objective: Puberty-induced insulin resistance is considered critical in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes (T2D) in youth. The development of T2D before puberty suggests distinct risk factors and pathophysiology but, because of its rarity, this has not been well studied. We aimed to describe the clinical characteristics of children with T2D diagnosed before the onset of puberty.

Research design and methods: We retrospectively studied all children with autoantibody-negative T2D and available pubertal development assessment seen at our center between July 2016 and July 2019, and compared characteristics of those at Tanner stage I (prepubertal, n = 35) versus those at Tanner II-V of pubertal development (n = 341).

Results: At T2D diagnosis, prepubertal children compared with those at Tanner II-V had higher body mass index z-score (p = 0.003) and higher C-peptide (p = 0.003) (while glucose levels were not significantly different), with differences retaining significance after adjustment for glucose, race/ethnicity and sex. Dyslipidemia occurred in 100% of prepubertal children versus 89.7% of those diagnosed later (p = 0.036). Of the prepubertal children diagnosed under age 10 (n = 13), 69.2% were female, 100% racial/ethnic minority, 100% had obesity with history of dyslipidemia and none with diabetic ketoacidosis.

Conclusions: T2D, although rarely, can develop before puberty. Children with T2D diagnosed in the prepubertal period have more severe obesity, greater insulin resistance, and more frequent dyslipidemia than older youth. These findings suggest that children with prepubertal T2D are at increased risk for associated morbidity compared with older youth and underscore the significance of interventions to prevent and treat obesity in early childhood.

Keywords: childhood obesity; dyslipidemia; heterogeneity; prepubertal; puberty; tanner; type 2 diabetes.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Autoantibodies / blood
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / immunology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology
  • Dyslipidemias / epidemiology
  • Ethnic and Racial Minorities / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology*
  • Islets of Langerhans / immunology
  • Male
  • Pediatric Obesity / epidemiology
  • Pediatric Obesity / genetics
  • Puberty / physiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors


  • Autoantibodies