Kids who are overweight have a higher risk for type 2 diabetes. Learn how lifestyle and other factors can influence your child’s risk.
Children who are overweight are at a high risk to develop type 2 diabetes. This form of diabetes used to be seen mostly in adults. But an epidemic of childhood obesity in the United States has led to a surge in the condition among children.
Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey show that from 1971 to 1974, obesity occurred in:
- 5 percent of 2- to 5-year-olds
- 4 percent of 6- to 11-year-olds
- 6.1 percent of 12- to 19-year-olds
By 2004 the rate of obesity in children had jumped to:
- 13.9 percent for ages 2 to 5
- 18.8 percent for ages 6 to 11
- 17.4 percent for ages 12 to 19
This is a significant problem, because kids who get type 2 diabetes face a lifetime of high risk for diabetes complications. Kidney failure, heart disease and high blood pressure are just a few.
Sedentary lifestyle blamed
Type 1 diabetes had been the most common form of diabetes in children through the late 1980s. It occurs because the pancreas produces little or no insulin. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body makes too little insulin or becomes resistant to it.
The spike in children who have type 2 diabetes due to childhood obesity may result from:
- A drop in physical activity among children. Kids are walking to school less, doing fewer household chores and have less in-school physical education.
- An increase in “screen” time (time spent watching TV, playing video games and socializing on the computer). More than one in four kids between the ages of 8 and 16 watch at least four hours of TV daily. Children who watch that much TV have a much higher body-mass index (BMI) – a measure of obesity – than those who watch less than two hours per day.
- Poor eating habits or parents having less time to prepare proper meals.
Low-income families face even tougher challenges. Many don’t have safe places for kids to play outside or steady access to healthy food. Studies show that kids and teens from lower-income families are more likely to eat higher fat foods and fewer fruits and vegetables.
Helping to watch your child’s weight
The food choices a parent makes can influence a child’s food preferences for life. Removing foods high in fat and low in nutrition from the home can go a long way. Other hints:
- Limit screen time. Spending less time in front of the TV or computer and being more active can help prevent obesity. Having a TV in the bedroom may be a strong predictor of being overweight, even for preschool kids.
- Get them moving. Set a good example – take a walk or a bike ride together. Cutting back on forms of idle entertainment – like computer games or too much time on the Internet – has also proven effective.
- Eat together. Fewer family meals often mean eating fewer fruits and vegetables and more fried foods and soda.
- Know you cannot control everything. Give children the chance to make healthy food choices. Avoid:
- Constantly bringing up weight
- Pushing kids to eat everything on their plates
- Using food as a reward or punishment
Do be a good role model for your child. Let your kids see you making healthy food and activity choices.