Childhood obesity and diabetes: A coming health crisis?

Childhood obesity often goes hand-in-hand with Type 2 diabetes, and the long-term implications are frightening.Type 2 diabetes can lead to high cholesterol, strokes in adults as young as their 20s, high blood pressure, heart attack, renal failure and retinopathy leading to blindness.

QuickCare Visalia Medical Clinic
Before the 1990s this form of diabetes (previously known as adult-onset diabetes) was rarely seen in children. Today, physicians are seeing a dramatic increase.

Locally, children as young as 8 have been found to be “insulin resistant,” which is a precursor to diabetes, says Susan Smith, Ph.D., a diabetes educator with VMC.The only medical treatment approved for children under 18 is insulin, Smith explained, but lifestyle and diet changes need to come first.

“I have seen teens make diet changes and lose weight and their glucose test normalized,” Smith said. “I had a family commit to ride their bikes to the park every day – and that is what it takes to create change. The whole family has to rethink how they eat and become more active.

“Drive-through food is unhealthy, high in sodium and calories, the portions are too large and children today are not active. Children with a family history of diabetes may develop diabetes eventually, but with education and better nutrition, we can delay the process.”

Type 1 diabetes occurs most frequently in children and young adults, although it can occur at any age. Type 1 diabetes accounts for 5 to 10 percent of all diabetes in the U.S. There does appear to be a genetic component to Type 1 diabetes, but the cause has yet to be identified.

Type 2 diabetes is much more common and accounts for 90 to 95 percent of all diabetes. There is a strong correlation among Type 2 diabetes, physical inactivity, poor nutrition habits and obesity. Type 2 diabetes is the number 6 killer of Americans and can be curable through weight loss.