These predictions from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are “incredibly alarming,” said Dr. Jean Chen of Texas Diabetes & Endocrinology. She looked at the predictions and explained the factors at play and how to reduce diabetes risks.
How did the CDC arrive at the predictions?
The federally funded study looked at the rate of increase in diabetes cases from 2002 to 2017 and projected trends through 2060. It also looked at health equity factors and predicted that for type 2 diabetes, non-Hispanic black children were expected to had the highest rates, followed by Hispanic children. White children and the “everyone else” category were tied for a distant third. For Type 1, white children were predicted to have the highest rates, followed by Hispanic children and then non-Hispanic black children, with all others coming in a distant fourth.
What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes used to be known as adult-onset diabetes. “Twenty years ago, type 2 in children and young adults was unheard of,” Chen said.
Type 2 happens when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin and the cells also do not respond well to insulin and are unable to use it. The biggest risk factor is obesity, but genetics also play a factor.
Type 1 diabetes usually occurs from childhood. It is an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas does not produce insulin.
It’s not clear why type 1 diabetes happens, but genetics may have something to do with it, as well as other factors, such as a virus triggering an autoimmune reaction.
Why is diabetes on the rise among children?
The biggest factor is rising obesity rates, as well as less healthy food choices and less exercise.
Rates are also rising in children due to the rise in gestational diabetes among pregnant women. This puts the child at greater risk of developing diabetes, as well as higher birth weight and obesity later in life.
What is the danger of diabetes?
Diabetes leads to many other medical problems, including:
What can people do to prevent these predictions from coming true?
During pregnancy, maintain a healthy weight and stay active. Cut back on simple carbs like crackers, chips, crackers and cereal. Avoid sugary drinks.
In childhood, encourage activity and healthy eating. Do this as a family, especially if there is a family history of diabetes.
Children should see a pediatrician annually. This pediatrician should monitor weight and height and observe changes in the child’s growth trajectory.
People who have risk factors, such as a first-degree relative with diabetes or who are overweight, should have their blood sugar and A1C checked regularly. This test should not wait until adulthood. A1C is the cumulative blood sugar over three months.
“Have a real talk with your doctor,” Chen said. “Weight loss is still our best weapon against diabetes. Diet and exercise is one component, but we know that diet and exercise are not enough for some people.” If that’s the case, she said, medication might be a consideration.
From a public health perspective, we need to create better access to healthy food and make it affordable.
This article originally appeared in the Austin American-Statesman: Why Diabetes in US Children Should Rise at ‘Alarming’ Rates