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Obesity-Linked Diabetes in Children on the Rise in the US

Dr. Avni Mahiji Offers Guidance on How to Avoid Type 2 Diabetes

Obesity and the form of diabetes linked to it are taking an even worse toll on America’s youths than medical experts had realized. As obesity rates in children have climbed, so has the incidence of Type 2 diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association there are 29.1 million people diagnosed with diabetes in US, of which 208,000 are under the age of 20.

The direct relation between obesity and diabetes, weight gain (adipose tissue) or being overweight causes extra stress on our bodies that prevents us from maintaining our glucose levels.  This occurs because being overweight causes your body to become resistant to insulin, which is the cause of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a group of disorders characterized by chronic high blood glucose levels, known as Hyperglycemia, due to the body’s failure to produce any or enough insulin to regulate high glucose levels. Type 2 diabetes is more prevalent than type 1 diabetes and is therefore seen in roughly 90% of all diabetes cases. Type 2 diabetes is predominantly diagnosed after the age of forty, however, it is now being found in all age ranges, including children and adolescents. New studies have shown that this disease progresses more rapidly and is harder to treat in children and young adults.

The impact of diabetes goes beyond chronic hyperglycemia. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness, end stage kidney diseases, and non-traumatic lower extremity amputations. People with diabetes are also two to four times more likely to experience cardiovascular complications and strokes. Diabetes and its related complications result in an estimated 200,000+ deaths each year, making diabetes one of the major causes of mortality in the U.S.

There are many risk factors for type 2 diabetes such as age, race, pregnancy, stress, certain medications, genetics or family history, high cholesterol and obesity. However, the single best predictor of Type 2 diabetes is overweight or obesity. More than 50% of all children’s Type 2 diabetes diagnoses are related to obesity. People who are overweight or have obesity have added pressure on their body’s ability to use insulin to properly control blood sugar levels, and are therefore more likely to develop diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes in children is largely preventable by promoting a healthy lifestyle and preventing severe weight gain. Children who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop diabetes in the future. Thus far, weight management is the best thing you can do to prevent the development of childhood Type 2 diabetes.