For years there were two distinct forms of diabetes (not including gestational diabetes, which occurs solely in pregnant women). They were Type 1, also referred to as “juvenile diabetes” because patients are either born with it or develop it very early in life, and there was something called “adult-onset diabetes” which occurred later in life and was sometimes caused by poor nutrition and/or obesity. While both forms of diabetes still very much exist (in increasing numbers), the “adult-onset” terminology needs to be modified due to the ever-increasing numbers of children being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
According to a New York Times report:
“Nearly one in four American adolescents may be on the verge of developing Type 2 diabetes or could already be diabetic, representing a sharp increase in the disease’s prevalence among children ages 12 to 19 since a decade ago, when it was estimated that fewer than one in 10 were at risk for or had diabetes, according to a new study.”
The presumed cause for this Type 2 diabetes spike is obesity, which has reached epidemic proportions. Researchers analyzed data from 3,383 youths ages 12 to 19 who participated in a federal survey and found that the proportion of those with diabetes or “prediabetes” increased from 9 percent in 1999 to 23 percent in 2008, according to a paper published in the journal Pediatrics. While Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, until recently it was a relative rarity among children under the age of 18. Now, with the prevalence of junk food, lack of exercise, and the rise in childhood obesity, it is not uncommon to see Type 2 being diagnosed in children age 10. Diabetes is linked to all sorts of problems in adults and children alike, including blindness, nerve damage, heart attacks and strokes. And the difference between a 45-year-old and a 12-year-old being diagnosed with Type 2 is that the disease progresses far more rapidly in children than in adults and is harder to treat.
The figures and reports are sobering, and not really something we, as parents, ever thought we would have to contend with. Two or three generations ago parents were dealing with polio, small pox and Nazis. Now, when we drop our kids off at school, we look at the unfortunate children, struggling with weight issues, snacking on chips, and drowning themselves in sodas the size of wastepaper baskets, and think…”will they live past 21?”
How do these grim figures impact the way you eat, and/or feed your children? Is this an issue of education or self-control? Can we really reverse the trend?