HealthCentral’s Daily Dose recently covered the news story of a toddler diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I call it the tragic story because it could have been prevented. I also argue that the day we stopped calling the disease “adult-onset diabetes,” and began calling it the current “politically correct” diabetes type 2, is the day we as a society, lost a valuable tool in the battle against escalating rates of this disease in kids.
We, as parents and as a community-at-large, need to put the focus back, squarely on the outrage of a disease once found only in adults, now found too commonly in kids.
How can a toddler be diagnosed with an adult disease?
I think most of us have become numb to what it means, when a disease that was once associated with adulthood, begins to appear in younger and younger individuals. The true horror to me personally, is to hear that now a toddler made it into the news, identified as the ‘youngest on record to develop adult onset diabetes,’ what we now call diabetes type 2. There is no doubt that many things contributed to the convergence of factors that led to diabetes onset in such a young child. Undeniable though, is the reality that this child was allowed to gain enough weight, to develop obesity and diabetes, thanks to poor lifestyle choices in the home.
We can say the family was uneducated, they were poor, they “knew not better,” except I have to believe that some adults who had access to this child saw the burgeoning weight problem and had to have known from all the information that we now have easy access to, that along with obesity comes a high risk of diabetes, heart disease and other “adult diseases.”
_When considering all of the factors that may have contributed to this toddler’s condition, there are some things that should be remembered to help prevent these circumstances from creating a similar tragedy: _
1. Diabetes and obesity are often lifelong diseases
Here’s a fact that needs to be shouted from the rooftops: Once you develop diabetes, it can go into remission but there is currently no cure. The switch, so to speak, has been flicked, and it will lurk, waiting for something such as stress and inflammation, repeat weight gain, poor dietary choices, pregnancy and weight gain, or sedentary lifestyle, to re-start the disease process and its associated complications. Yes, there is medicine for diabetes. But how can we allow this chronic disease and frankly, instigating obesity to occur in a toddler?? It’s honestly unfathomable.
2. Obesity and diabetes do NOT belong in the toddler age group
Kids are like sponges, soaking up information eagerly. They are also innocent and eager. We as parents, we as a society, have an extraordinary opportunity to lead them from birth…
…model healthy behaviors, excite them about gardens and growing fruits and vegetables, about understanding the rainbow of colors in the plant kingdom, about being adventurous and trying new foods and physical activities. Instead, we seem to have chosen to allow obesity and other adult illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, hyper-cholesterolemia, to pervade the child kingdom.
Anyone who has developed obesity knows the rate of recidivism. Like a yo-yo, most people who struggle with obesity and diabetes have ongoing successes and setbacks. The statistics for sustained weight loss in the population who struggles with obesity are dismal. So why would you introduce that destiny to a toddler??
3. Call diabetes type 2 an ‘adult’ disease
As a health professional, I will go back to calling diabetes type 2, adult onset diabetes, whenever I talk or write about it. It’s crucial to emphasize that there should be no complacency when it comes to limiting and eradicating this disease from the child, teen, and young adult populace. Whatever your opinion of Dr. Oz, he was one of the first doctors in the U.S. to highlight the unacceptable reality of heart disease – clogged arteries – in teens and very young adults. I feel the same about adult onset diabetes being diagnosed in children.
What can we do to limit this disease in children and teens?
If you are a parent, do your very best to make nutrition and physical activity cornerstones of your family life.
Teach your kids math lessons and language lessons in the supermarket.
Find support at school and demand healthier lunches, more activity time, and more school lessons that integrate nutrition and fitness education into the curriculum.
Use weekend to have fun lessons with food and playtime.
Identify free support and educational resources in your community through schools, local community centers, and supermarkets many of which now have nutritionists and dieticians on staff.
Be less territorial about your parenting role and more open to “learning new ways” to feed your family.
Call diabetes type 2, adult onset diabetes, and do everything within your power to limit the risk that obesity, and this associated adult disease, enter your household.
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