How to Prevent Diabetes in Children
Oh no!” Joshua’s mom was visibly upset. “Does that mean he’s going to have diabetes all his life?” Her ten-year-old son was just diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is becoming a bigger problem in the United States and all over the world. When I was in medical school, only thirty years ago, there were only two types of diabetes: adult onset diabetes, and juvenile diabetes. Now, everything has changed. We no longer use these names because doctors diagnose “adult onset diabetes” in more and more children. Now, you can find either type of diabetes at any age. In fact, over time, the incidence of both types of diabetes are increasing in children, but the rate of type 2 diabetes is increasing much faster.
Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus
Type 1 diabetes used to be “Juvenile Diabetes.” People with type 1 diabetes have a lack of insulin from the pancreas, so they require insulin injections. Those who have this type often lose weight and lack energy. Insulin is required to get sugar and amino acids into the cells to make energy. If there is not enough, the blood sugar goes up because it cannot get into the cells, and the cells can starve to death. Before insulin injections people usually died of starvation, no matter how much they ate.
Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
Just because type 2 diabetes has almost the same name, many doctors think of type 1 and type 2 in the same way. But they are opposite diseases! While type 1 is not enough, type 2 is characterized by “too much” –
- too much sugar
- too much fat
- but mostly, too much insulin.
Over time, the excess insulin causes the cells to take up so much sugar that they block it from the inside, causing insulin resistance. As a result, there is a lot of insulin, but it does not work so the blood sugar goes up. Thus, both types of diabetes share a symptom of high blood sugar and have the same name. Since it takes a long time to build up insulin resistance, this type of diabetes was almost never seen in children. However, because of lifestyle changes, the incidence of type 2 diabetes in children is increasing.
Why are more children getting Type 2?
In the past, people had limited choices of food, and often limited amounts. Since children are growing, and are more active than adults, it was hard to get too much. Now, however, life has changed. Children do less physical work and play. They sit at computers, they sit in school, they sit and watch movies, television, or sit in the car instead of walking. However, the problem is less about the activity, and more about the food. While children are sitting in the car, on the computer, or watching a movie, they are eating and drinking snack foods. It’s all about the food. Children just eat too much.
Joshua is a good example of why we are finding more Type 2 in children. His mom told me that he won’t drink anything that doesn’t have flavor. He drinks soda with every meal. Even milk must be flavored with chocolate or strawberry or he won’t drink it. He eats cereal for breakfast. Also, he uses sauces such as ketchup or BBQ sauce on most of his foods. He doesn’t like most fruit or raw vegetables, so he snacks on chips, gummies, yogurt, and goldfish. She thought since he wasn’t eating cake and ice cream, he was eating healthy things. Even though he was a skinny little kid, he has become obese, especially around the middle.