Why Diabetes in Children Is Rising and What You Can Do as a Parent To Stop It
Diabetes in American youth is surging. From 2001 to 2017, the number of Americans under the age of 20 living with type 1 diabetes rose 45% while the number living with type 2 diabetes rose 95%. These are eye-opening statistics that show the state of our health in America. Type 2 diabetes is a preventable disease that can be managed with healthy lifestyle choices.
Children who develop diabetes are more at risk for health complications and premature death than people who develop type 2 diabetes in adulthood. The childhood diabetes statistics are staggering and could be an early indicator of health for future generations. But how exactly does diabetes impact your child’s health and what can you do to prevent it?
Type 2 Diabetes in Children
Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic condition in which your body can’t process sugar properly for fuel. Without treatment, sugar levels build up in the bloodstream which can lead to serious health complications like heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. While the exact cause of type 2 diabetes is unknown, plenty of research points to risk factors that could increase your child’s chance of developing type 2 diabetes.
These risk factors include:
- Obesity. Children who are overweight or obese have a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. More fat tissue in between the muscle and skin around the abdomen makes children’s bodies more resistant to insulin.
- Poor diet. A poor diet that includes copious amounts of refined sugar (like sweetened beverages and processed carbohydrates), animal fats (specifically red meat), and cholesterol greatly increase a child’s risk of type 2 diabetes. Additionally, poor diet can lead to obesity.
- Lack of exercise. Children who don’t get an adequate amount of exercise are more at risk of type 2 diabetes. Inactivity can cause higher blood sugar levels. Lack of exercise is also a risk factor for obesity, a known cause of type 2 diabetes.
- Genetics. A child is more at risk for type 2 diabetes if they have a family member with the disease.
- Race or ethnicity. Black, Asian, Hispanic, and Native American children have the highest risk of type 2 diabetes, though it’s unclear why.
- Maternal gestational diabetes. Children whose mothers had gestational diabetes while they were pregnant have a higher likelihood of type 2 diabetes.
- Age and sex. Female adolescents are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes in their early teens than boys.
- Premature birth or low birth weight. Low birth weight and children born before 39 to 42 weeks are at higher risk for type 2 diabetes.
What Can You Do To Prevent Childhood Type 2 Diabetes?
Manage Their Diet
Teach your child the difference between healthy foods and bad foods, so they can learn what types of foods to avoid. The best diet to prevent type 2 diabetes, as well as obesity, is a diet rich in whole foods like whole grains, lean proteins (like chicken, turkey, and fish), fibrous vegetables (leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, and healthy fats (like avocado and olive oil). Fast food (especially fried foods) and sugar sweetened sodas and juices should be avoided or consumed sparingly.
You should encourage your child to stay active and get plenty of regular exercise. Sign them up for a sports team at school or exercise together as a family. Discourage your child from watching television or playing video games for hours. If possible, encourage them to play outside at the park or ride their bicycle around the block. Regular exercise can reduce blood sugar levels and prevent obesity.
Lead By Example
The key to preventing your child from developing type 2 diabetes is to encourage them to lead a healthy lifestyle. The best way to encourage them is to lead by example. Make healthy eating and regular exercise a family affair. They are more likely to stick to these healthy habits if they see you practicing them as well.
Are There Natural Supplements That Can Regulate Blood Sugar?
Herbal plant remedies have been used for centuries to improve various health maladies. Berberine is a natural compound derived from plants that has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and lower glucose levels in people with diabetes. Berberine can be taken in supplement form in combination with a healthy diet and exercise program to control blood sugar levels and reduce your risk of diabetes. Though there are relatively few side effects reported from the use of Berberine, you should always check with your doctor before taking any supplements or medications.