Youth and Diabetes: Bad News that Hits Close to Home

type 2 diabetes in kidsOf course, we all care about the health of our sons and daughters – our nephews and nieces – our grandchildren.  It is sobering, then, to learn that both type 1 and type 2 diabetes increased among youth from the year 2001 to 2009.  The study, conducted at the Colorado School of Public Health in Aurora Colorado, draws attention to the seriousness of pediatric diabetes.  Dr. Dana Dabela, who worked on the study, observed, “Every new case of diabetes at a young age means a lifelong burden of difficult, expensive treatment and a high risk of complications.”

In the span of the study, a 21 percent increase was reported among children with type 1 diabetes.  In type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune defenses destroy insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.  Type 1 diabetes was most commonly diagnosed among white children.

Sadly, the number of children with type 2 diabetes increased more dramatically:  31 percent in the same span of 2001 to 2009.  For those with type 2 diabetes, the body makes insulin but cannot use it effectively.  Type 2 diabetes was most common in this study diabetes among American Indian and African American youth.

Type 2 diabetes is linked closely to the occurrence of obesity.  In recent years, the rates of obesity in the U.S. have plateaued, yet diabetes continues to rise in youth.  Doctors hope that the rate of diabetes will plateau in the coming years as well.  “The obesity rates in the U.S. have been relatively stable since 2003-04 with a decline in rates recently, mainly in younger children rather than in older children, so I am not too surprised in the continued rise in type 2 (diabetes) in youth from 2001 to 2009, but I am hopeful that the rate of type 2 in youth will level off over the next five years,” said Dr. Georgeanna J. Klingensmith of the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

Studies have shown that type 2 diabetes is linked closely to an unhealthy diet and lifestyle.  Sadly, the rate of diabetes among minorities is strong.   What can be done?  To protect against type 2 diabetes, parents should help their children avoid excessive weight gain, eat less fried food and more fresh vegetables and get 30 to 60 minutes of exercise per day, Klingensmith said.

Are there simple things that we as parents can do to help our young ones make better diet and lifestyle choices?  Sure there are!

Eliminate Soda:  If the kids are used to drinking the fizzy sweet stuff, expect a fight.  You’ll need to dig in your heels on this one, but the results are worth it.  If they simply will not switch to water, you can replace soda with plain decaf iced tea (unsweetened) or try an unsweetened peach or berry iced tea.  Fruit-based tea tastes naturally sweet, with no sugars or artificial sweeteners. Ask your doctor about using stevia as a sweetener.

Get Them Moving:  It’s important that the kids get their blood pumping.  If you are struggling to find safe and inexpensive options, check out our helpful article on indoor exercise.

Get Sneaky:  For young kids especially, getting them to eat their vegetables can be a struggle.  Check out some great tips by mother of three Jessica Seinfeld in her book Deceptively Delicious.

Getting kids to make better health choices can be a struggle, but remember we’re here every step of the way to help you gain control of your family’s health.  The work will be worth it when our children grow up to be strong and healthy adults.


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