Look around when you’re at a mall or a park, and you’ll probably see a number of overweight children and teenagers. For many of them, that extra weight – often caused by a poor diet and lack of exercise – increasingly is putting their health at risk.
The Boston Globe reported on a new national study just published in the New England Journal of Medicine that followed 700 overweight children below the age of 17 who had been recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes over a four-year period. “Researchers found that 45 percent of the participants treated with the drug metformin – either alone, with intensive weight-loss counseling, or in combination with another medication, rosiglitazone, or Avandia – failed to maintain healthy blood levels and needed to be put on more potent insulin injections within slightly less than a year,” reporter Deborah Kotz wrote. The researchers found that 52 percent of the study participants who only took metformin had to change to insulin. Forty-seven percent of participants who participated in weekly sessions with a weight-loss counselor while taking metformin eventually needed to go on insulin during the study. The most successful treatment – if you can call it that since 39 percent of participants had to start insulin treatments – involved taking both metformin and Avandia.
So what exactly is diabetes? The National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) tip sheet provides a great child-friendly explanation: “Diabetes means your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. In all of us, the food we eat turns into glucose and our bodies use it for energy. When you have diabetes, your body cannot use glucose as normal, and your blood glucose rises. Young people with type 2 diabetes may need to take pills or insulin to help the body use the glucose in the blood for energy. If the blood glucose stays too high for too long, it can damage many parts of the body such as the heart, eyes, kidneys, and nerves.” While some children may never exhibit the warning signs of type 2 diabetes, common signs include increased urination, being thirsty, feeling tired and having thick dark skin on the neck or under the arms.
The results of the study I mentioned earlier are really scary since more and more children are being diagnosis with type 2 diabetes, which normally is associated with adults age 40 and above. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggested that obesity and low physical activity may be the major contributors to this surge; in addition, some children may have been exposed to diabetes while still in the womb, thus creating a predispostion to develop the disease. Because cases are surging, the CDC is encouraging doctors to learn more about type 2 diabetes so they can do a better job of making a diagnosis. Type 2 diabetes tends to emerge when youngsters are between the ages of 10 and 19 years. This disease seems is more prevalent in non-white groups, although youngsters in all ethnic groups with this disease have been identified.
So how can children and teenagers avoid this disease. Here are some steps:
- Avoid sodas and fast foods. “Children as well as adults who habitually consume soft drinks and fast food take in more energy, weigh more, have poorer diets and are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than people who consume less of these foods,” Dr. Marian Nestle, the Paulette Goddard Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University, wrote in the American Journal for Public Health. “These connections provide good evidence for restricting such foods to occasional treats.”
- Opt for healthy foods. NDEP recommends choosing foods that are high in fiber, such as whole grain breads, brown rice, oatmeal, lentils, peas, cereal, fruits and vegetables. Consume small servings of fish, meat, poultry, low-fat cheese and soy products; remove skin and all fat. Avoid using salt and opt for foods that are low in salt. Drink water.
- Be active. NDEP recommends that children try to incorporate 60 minutes of activity – such as walking, riding a bike, dancing, roller blading, skateboarding, or a school gym course – into each day. Exercising 20 minutes at a time at three times during a day also works well.
Primary Sources for this Sharepost:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Children and diabetes.
Katz, D. (2012). Type 2 diabetes tougher to treat in children. Boston Globe.
National Diabetes Education Program. (2009). How to lower your risk for type 2 diabetes. National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nestle, M. (2005). Preventing childhood diabetes: the need for public health intervention. American Journal of Public Health.