Preventing Type 2 Diabetes in Children
Decades ago, diabetes mellitus type 2 was primarily a disease of adults. In recent years, however, the incidence of type 2 diabetes has increased in children and adolescents so that some doctors are screening children for the disease along with their parents and grandparents.
Children are turning up with diabetes in staggering numbers throughout many developed countries. Coincidentally so are obesity rates among kids. More than 1/3 of children in the United States are overweight or obsess. Children as young as five years of age are obese. Really, this is no coincidence at all, but in fact, a causal effect exists between obesity and type 2 diabetes.
What makes children at risk for type 2 diabetes?
Some kids are at higher risk of getting diabetes type 2 than others. The main risk factors include the following:
• Having a family history of diabetes
• A lack of exercise
• Being overweight or obese
• Being a girl
• Belonging to certain ethnic groups, such as African American, Native American, Hispanic or Latino, or Asian.
• Entering puberty
The above risk factors have been augmented by children spending more time in front of a television, computer, or gaming system.
Remember the 50’s, 60s, and 70s when would race outside after school to play on the block with their friends? They ran around, played hopscotch, and rode their bikes.
Today, kids spend so many hours sitting in their bedroom or living room that they have no time to exercise. They race to their Playstations after school to vegetate in front of a video game, or to their computer screen to browse the web. They tend to eat more in front of a screen and have no means of burning those calories up and so they become obese.
This lack of exercise, overeating, and obesity cause insulin resistance, which is a state where the insulin produced by the pancreas because of elevated blood sugar cannot effectively put the sugar into the cells for cellular nutrition.
A feedback loop erupts in which insulin levels rise, become ineffective at bringing the blood sugar down and the blood sugar continues to rise. Type 2 diabetes develops.
How To Prevent Type 2 Diabetes In Children
The first way to prevent type 2 diabetes in kids is to reduce obesity. Obese kids will have a higher rate of diabetes than those of normal weight. This means that children need to be taught how to eat well and enjoy lower calorie and low fat foods. Junk food needs to be limited or avoided as much as possible. Get rid of the taboo foods like chips, cookies, cakes, candy from the cupboards, and replace them with fresh fruit, vegetables, and healthy snacks they can reach for after school.
Drinking sugared soda pop is a huge risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes and it is a common drink for children to take in. Rather than loading their bodies with all of the sugar and calories that comes with sugary drinks like soda, offer them low sugar beverages. Even diet soda is much better than sugared sodas.
Children need milk, juices and water more than they do sugared sodas. Just eliminating the sugar in these sodas can help prevent diabetes in children by controlling their weight and reducing the sugar load on their bodies.
Another way of preventing type 2 diabetes in children is to promote more physical activity. Children would do well to stay away from television and instead engage in vigorous physical activity.
Kids need about an hour of physical exercise every day, including activities like using playground equipment, running around, playing large motor games and swimming. Exercise burns up sugar for fuel and cuts down on childhood obesity.
• Currently in the US, 1 in 5 children is believed to be overweight.
• Overweight children have more than double the chances of getting diabetes than normal weight children.
If obesity runs in your family, you would do well to teach your children better eating and exercise patterns at a very young age so it becomes habit for them to eat better and get more exercise.
It is virtually impossible to raise healthy and fit kids when parents do not engage in the means to get them there. Parents cannot and do not sit around eating double cheeseburgers and fries, while their kids eat steamed broccoli. It just cannot and does not happen.
Parents need to lead by example, by serving and eating healthy food and being positive role models. They need to exercise with their kids and mirror a healthy lifestyle with choices that support healthy habits their kids can learn, and use their whole lives.
How can I tell if my child has diabetes?
If you think your child has developed diabetes, look for the possibility of the following symptoms:
• Increased thirst
• Dry mouth
• Unexplained weight loss
• Frequent urination
• Blurry vision
• Slow healing of cuts and sores
• Numbness of feet or hands
Even with no symptoms, a high-risk child could be in the early stages of diabetes and it would be worth it to have the child undergo blood glucose screening under the supervision of a doctor.