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Childhood Diabetes On The Rise: Why More Kids Are Insulin-Dependent Than Ever

Doctors have diagnosed a higher-than-ever percentage of children with type 1 and type 2 diabetes in several countries. Diabetes in young children is alarming because it could lead to a host of other problems, such as kidney malfunction, heart difficulties and high blood pressure. Today’s children have become more prone to this metabolic disease due to several factors — however, parents can help their children by getting an early diagnosis and assisting them with their treatment.

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Photo w/ modifications by Alexandra Goff via Flickr

Higher Percentages of Type 2 Diabetes

Data show that doctors diagnose 3,700 American children with type 2 diabetes every year, and 15,000 children with type 1 diabetes every year. A patient with type 1 diabetes requires regular insulin shots because the pancreas no longer functions properly. These figures come from a study that examined patients in 2008 and 2009.

Decades before this study’s parameters, fewer than 5 percent of children diagnosed with diabetes had type 2. That figure has risen to 20 percent.

Obesity

Obesity represents the largest factor of the rise in type 2 diabetes among children. One in three children suffers from obesity or is overweight. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts that one-third of children born in 2000 or later may develop diabetes later in life. High-calorie foods, combined with technology that keeps kids sitting on the couch playing video games, may cause a more drastic weight gain.

Poverty could also lead to diabetes, since high-calorie foods remain cheaper for adults raising big families on tight budgets. Plus, some neighborhood supermarkets leave due to high crime rates, which further exacerbates parents who cannot travel far to find good food.

Latent Disease

Children do not show symptoms of diabetes until 10 years after they start to develop the disease. By the time the children see a doctor, the full-blown disease has already occurred. Many kids who get diabetes don’t receive a diagnosis until they reach their 20s or 30s.

Parents may be able to notice early warning signs, including being underweight or overweight. One subtle sign of prediabetes is extra thickness and darkness around the back of the neck. It could also help to compare their children’s height and weight to normal values on a growth chart. This could signal diabetes over a year prior to when severe symptoms begin.

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Solutions

Doctors recommend several solutions to decrease childhood incidences of type 2 diabetes. Encourage kids to drink water and milk rather than high-sugar sports drinks, sodas and fruit juices. Children should eat a full breakfast and eat slowly so they can maintain normal metabolisms. Then, kids should wait 15 minutes before getting second helpings because the body takes time to recognize it’s full. Cutting down on portion sizes in this way reduces caloric intake while allowing kids to still feel full.

Children should also get regular exercise, even indoors — and some technology can even help with that. Some video game systems can be a suitable options, by using games that encourage kids to get up and get active rather than sit on the couch. Teenagers already love smartphones, so encourage them to download apps that can track the amount of exercise and calories they get daily.


Type 2 diabetes is on the rise, but there are ways that parents can help prevent it. They can take a proactive stance with their children by keeping an eye out for the early signs of diabetes. They can also lead by example by making healthy choices themselves, and talking to their primary care physician about shopping techniques, calorie counters and possible dietary guidelines for kids with metabolic difficulties.

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