Childhood Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes
September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, a great time to consider the many issues surrounding this serious health concern affecting many of our nation’s children.
Today, about one-third of young people in the United States are overweight, and nearly 19 percent of young people ages 2 to 19 are obese. Childhood obesity increases the risk of serious health problems that were once commonly seen only in adults, such as sleep apnea, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
In our previous articles for National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, Health Edco has examined ways parents and caregivers can help prevent childhood obesity and how junk food may contribute to the problem.
This month, we’re taking a closer look at one of the serious health issues associated with childhood overweight and obesity that once occurred almost exclusively in adults: type 2 diabetes. Read on to learn more about type 2 diabetes in children, and check out just a few of our health education resources that are great to help teach young people about diabetes and the importance of healthy lifestyle habits.
What Is Type 2 Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease that affects metabolism, the way the body turns food into energy. People with diabetes develop high blood glucose (blood sugar), which can result in many serious health complications if it is not kept under control.
As part of normal digestion, the body changes carbohydrates from foods into different sugar molecules, including glucose. Glucose is the body’s main source of energy. The bloodstream carries glucose to the body’s cells, and the cells absorb glucose with the help of insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas.
adults about diabetes, diabetes management, and prevention.
In people with diabetes, body cells cannot absorb glucose because of a problem with insulin. If the body does not produce insulin or if it cannot use the insulin it produces, the amount of glucose in the blood increases. If blood glucose levels become too high and diabetes is not well-managed, damaging health conditions can develop over time, including kidney failure, heart disease, and blindness.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, and it differs from type 1 diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas makes little or no insulin. As a result, people with type 1 diabetes must supply their bodies daily with the insulin they are not able to produce. Type 1 diabetes can affect anyone, but it is usually diagnosed in children, teens, and young adults. Type 2 diabetes, by contrast, is more commonly diagnosed in adults. In people with type 2 diabetes, the body doesn’t make enough insulin or the body’s cells can’t use the insulin effectively. Many people with type 2 diabetes can manage their diabetes without supplying their bodies with insulin.
What’s the Connection Between Body Weight and Type 2 Diabetes in Children?
Risk factors for type 1 and type 2 diabetes differ. Type 1 diabetes is thought to occur as a result of the immune system mistakenly attacking and destroying the cells in the pancreas that create insulin.
Most cases of type 2 diabetes are diagnosed in people who are overweight. Excess body weight is the primary cause of type 2 diabetes in children. Excess body fat—especially extra fat around the belly—can make it difficult for the body’s cells to respond to insulin. Being physically inactive can worsen the situation. Type 2 diabetes was formerly called adult-onset diabetes, but thanks to increasing levels of childhood obesity, more and more children are receiving a type 2 diabetes diagnosis.
understand the health risks of excess body fat around the mid-section.
What Are Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes in Children?
Although experts don’t know exactly why some children develop type 2 diabetes, certain factors increase the risk, including:
- Being overweight—Excess body fat is the primary risk factor for type 2 diabetes in children.
- Having a family history of diabetes—Many children who develop type 2 diabetes have a family history or at least one parent with the condition.
- Being physically inactive—Physical activity is important for weight management, and it helps the body’s cells respond to insulin.
Childhood obesity is more commonly diagnosed in children in their early teens, when hormone levels may increase that are associated with insulin resistance, when the body’s cells don’t respond efficiently to insulin. Type 2 diabetes is also more likely to develop in girls than boys.
What Are Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes in Children?
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes in children may not be noticeable or may develop over time so that they are not easy to detect. Some children may experience symptoms, such as:
- Increased thirst and urination
- Blurred vision
- Unexplained weight loss
- Darkened areas of skin, such as in the neck or armpits
can help young people understand the A1C test.
How Is Type 2 Diabetes in Children Treated?
Once a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes is made, type 2 diabetes in children is managed with diet, physical activity, and medications, along with regular monitoring, including routine A1C testing. Some children may also require insulin. Taking steps to prevent childhood obesity also helps prevent childhood type 2 diabetes.
Why Is Managing Childhood Type 2 Diabetes Important?
Over time, diabetes that is not well-controlled can have devastating effects on nearly every major organ in the body, leading to potential complications including blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, stroke, amputation, and more. The good news is that managing diabetes and maintaining healthy blood glucose levels dramatically reduces the risk of developing life-threatening complications.
damage, and other complications of uncontrolled diabetes.
Teaching About Type 2 Diabetes and Its Prevention With Health Edco Health Education Resources
In addition to the diabetes education resources featured above, Health Edco has many more engaging diabetes education materials and models to teach young people and adults about diabetes, diabetic complications, and diabetes management. We also have comprehensive nutrition education resources and physical activity education products that are perfect to teach young people about healthy lifestyle habits. Learn more by visiting our product sections dedicated to Diabetes, Nutrition, and Physical Activity.
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