Columbia Medical News Tips: Endocrine Society Meeting, June 19-23, 2001


To the dismay of parents and medical professionals alike, many of today’s youth are consuming an unhealthy daily diet of high-fat foods with little nutritional value—and are enticed into inactivity by the lure of home entertainment. It has been widely suggested that this “couch potato” lifestyle is putting youngsters at risk for childhood obesity—and for a whole host of accompanying ailments, including adult-onset diabetes and heart disease. Now, Columbia researchers may have identified yet another health problem that could be associated with childhood obesity in some: osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a widely pervasive medical condition in which the bones become perpetually subject to fracture. It is a major public health threat affecting more than 28 million Americans, 80 percent of whom are women. In the United States today, 10 million individuals (8 million American women and 2 million American men) already have the disease—while18 million more have low bone density, placing them at increased risk for osteoporosis. One in two women and one in eight men over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime (source: National Osteoporosis Foundation). “A major risk factor for osteoporosis is low bone mineral content during childhood and adolescence,” said Mary Horlick, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons. “Our study has found that body fat contributes little or nothing to bone mineral content in children—while non-fat body tissues help increase bone mineral content. This may indicate that children with greater fat mass will be at greater risk for osteoporosis.”


Some diabetes patients suffer from hypoglycemia, a potentially fatal condition in which blood sugar levels drop to abnormally low levels, due to their insulin injections. Columbia researchers, however, may have found a viable solution to this problem: changing from multiple daily injections to a type of insulin pump therapy. According to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, the most common cause of hypoglycemia is as a complication of diabetes. Diabetes occurs when the body cannot use glucose for fuel because either the pancreas is not able to make enough insulin or the insulin that is available is not effective. As a result, glucose builds up in the blood instead of getting into bodily cells. The aim of treatment in diabetes is to reduce high blood sugar levels. To do this, people with diabetes may use insulin or oral drugs, depending on the type of diabetes they have or the severity of their condition. Hypoglycemia occurs most often in people who use insulin to lower their blood sugar. All people with type 1 diabetes and some people with type 2 diabetes use insulin. In a recent Columbia study, researchers examined 12 Type-1 diabetes patients who also suffered hypoglycemic insulin reactions, switching them from their normal multiple daily injections of insulin to pump therapy (which involves inserting a small needle that stays in place for 2-3 days). According to Robin S. Goland, M.D., associate professor of medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons and co-director of the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, “the pump delivers a more predictable dose of insulin. We found that hypoglycemia was reduced for all of our study participants when they switched to pump therapy.”


*Established in 1767, Columbia’s College of Physicians & Surgeons was the first institution in the country to grant the M.D. degree. Among the most selective medical schools in the country, the school is also home to the largest medical research enterprise in New York State and one of the largest in the country. NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital is the primary teaching hospital for the Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, providing international leadership in biomedical research and patient care.

**The Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center ( combines unprecedented family-centered patient care and education with world-class diabetes research programs. Located at the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, 168th Street and Broadway, in New York City, the center hosts a renowned team of adult and pediatric diabetes experts, which include endocrinologists, educators, family counselors, nutritionists, podiatrists, and ophthalmologists.


Mary Horlick, New York City, New York State, Physicians Surgeons