There are roughly 5,000 new cases of Type 2 diabetes each year among children in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although most cases could be prevented, Type 2 diabetes in adolescents continues to rise.
Diabetes is a condition in which the body cannot produce enough insulin — the chemical hormone released by the pancreas to control blood glucose — or use the insulin correctly. Type 2 diabetes is both resistance to insulin by the body’s cells as well as an impairment in the secretion of insulin by the pancreas.
“In a healthy individual, the body is able to self-regulate the insulin secretion needed to maintain normal blood sugar,” says Dr. Rachel Klein, a doctor of internal medicine and pediatrics with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group. “When there is decreased insulin available or the cells do not respond to it appropriately, this balance is disrupted and the blood sugar becomes elevated.”
High levels of sugar in the bloodstream can have many detrimental effects on the body. The earlier a person develops diabetes, the earlier the following can occur:
- Vision loss
- Neuropathy (weakness, numbness and pain, usually in the hands and feet)
- Heart disease
- Kidney failure
“While obesity is not the only factor in developing diabetes, it is a main contributing source,” says Dr. Klein. “As rates of obesity in our nation have risen, the diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes has increased in parallel.”
Along with obesity, other risk factors for developing Type 2 diabetes include:
- Having a family member with Type 2 diabetes
- Gestational diabetes in the mother
- High birth weight
- Belonging to ethnic groups at higher risk, including American Indian, Alaska Native, African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic/Latino and Pacific Islander
“Heredity is part of the equation,” says Dr. Klein. “However, we can have a tremendous effect and positive lasting benefits from changing our lifestyle.”
Dr. Klein offers these two tips to help prevent Type 2 diabetes in kids:
- Make better food choices
• Eat foods high in fiber, such as whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables.
• Eat foods low in saturated and trans fats, such as lean meats, fish and low-fat dairy products, as well as foods with healthy unsaturated fats, such as nuts and avocados.
• Eat baked, broiled or grilled foods instead of fried foods.
• Eat foods .
• Drink water instead of sugary drinks, such as soda, sports drinks and juices.
• Minimize foods with , including those with added corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, glucose, sucrose and honey.
- Stay active
• Get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day.
• Limit screen time to no more than two hours per day.
“The key to preventing Type 2 diabetes in kids is making lifestyle changes that are sustainable,” says Dr. Klein. “Find a healthy balance with exercise and healthy eating, and get the whole family on board — everyone will benefit.”