Children Are Developing Adult Onset Diabetes
When diabetes strikes during childhood, it historically has been type 1 diabetes (also known as juvenile-onset diabetes). However, the number of cases of children and adolescents with type 2 diabetes (formerly known as adult-onset diabetes) has been increasing in frequency over the last 20 years.
Children and adolescents diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are generally between 10 and 19 years old, obese, have a family history for type 2 diabetes and have insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a metabolic disturbance caused from excessive carbohydrate (sugars and starches) intake and can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, polycystic ovarian disease, inflammatory acne, cholesterol and triglyceride abnormalities in addition to diabetes.
Those affected with type 2 diabetes belong to all ethnic groups but it is more commonly seen in non-white groups such as Latinos, African Americans and American Indians. In particular, Pima Indian youths have the highest rate of type 2 diabetes with 50.9 per 1000 cases in the 15-to-19-year age group. There are no concise figures for the U.S. child and adolescent population in general but some experts estimate the range to in the 2.3 – 7.2 cases per 100,000 range.
Many pediatric centers now report that as many as 1/3 to 1/2 of all new pediatric diabetes cases are of the type 2 variety. Keep in mind that type 2 diabetes is related to carbohydrate intake and obesity and would of been considered highly unusual just a few decades ago.
What Does This Signify?
The increasing prevalence of type 2 Diabetes among our child signifies that the health of our children is in serious trouble. The obesity problem among our youth is not simply a cosmetic issue, it is a dangerous harbinger of the illness that await our children. The excessive carbohydrates that our children are consuming are going to be the cause of their premature death. I don’t say this lightly. I see children everyday in the clinic and everyday I see children who will not live as long as their parents simply because of their diet.
Type 2 diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S. and results in a great deal of morbidity such as blindness, painful neurological damage, kidney failure requiring dialysis, amputation, heart attacks, stroke and high blood pressure. It is a preventable disease. It is a disease of excess consumption of carbohydrates, inactivity and obesity. Do you want these medical problems in your child’s future?
What’s A Parent To Do?
The first step to helping your child is to remind yourself that you are responsible for your child’s health and welfare. This means you are going to need to put up with the endless bickering and complaining from kids and possibly your spouse when you cut off their supply of soda, fruit juices, breakfast cereals, pasta, chips, cookies, ice cream and carbohydrate laden snacks. Nothing important comes easy.
You need to educate yourself about alternative meals that contain more fruits and vegetables that have not been over-cooked or processed (think sauteed green beans vs boiled green beans from the can), fresh fruit or nuts as the routine snack and higher protein containing meals especially for breakfast (think more eggs than cereal).
As evidenced by the obesity epidemic among all Americans young and old, we have gotten way off track nutritionally. There is a slow and growing opinion among researchers that the shift to a higher carbohydrate, lower fat diet in addition to the relentless marketing of food to the American public are the main driving forces behind the rapid deterioration in the health of the U.S. population.
But it’s not too late. You need to set the stage for success at home. You need to read and understand more about insulin resistance, nutrition labels and protein and carbohydrate basics. Set a goal to ultimately reduce everyone’s carbohydrate intake to no more than 150 grams per day. Work at insuring everyone in the household eats more protein and less carbohydrates for breakfast.
Perseverance Is the Key
If the junk food isn’t in the house, if you don’t give in to the temptation to go to a fast food restaurant for the convenient meal, if you push yourself to prepare a different dish for dinner, you can make an enormous difference in their lives. It may seem a bit overwhelming at times but it is a major undertaking. It’s difficult not only to change your own habits but especially so when you are trying to change the habits of the entire household.
The more you prepare and the more you are consistent, the less the kids will push back against the change and will go along with your new pattern of eating. Make the commitment today for the health of your kids, the health of your spouse and yourself. I can guarantee you will improve and prolong all your lives by doing so.