When I was in medical school, I rarely saw a child who was
obese, much less one with Type 2 diabetes. Today, because of the
obesity epidemic, it is the predominant form of diabetes in some
ethnic groups, and it is becoming more and more common.
There are many consequences of obesity, but Type 2
diabetes is one of the most serious.
Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes both involve the pancreas, an
organ in the abdomen that releases insulin into the blood
stream to control blood sugar levels. In Type 2 diabetes, because
of excess fat, the body doesn't respond correctly to insulin and
blood sugar rises. The pancreas works harder and produces more
insulin to keep blood sugar under control. Over time, the body
becomes resistant to insulin and the blood sugar levels remain
high. It can take years, but the combination of excess fat
(obesity) and genetics cause the insulin produced by the pancreas
to be ineffective. That condition is called Type 2 diabetes.
The epidemic of childhood obesity is causing rates of Type
2 diabetes to rise dramatically. High cholesterol, liver disease
and high blood pressure often go hand-in-hand with diabetes and can
lead to heart disease and stroke at a very young age. Unlike Type 1
diabetes, Type 2 can be prevented with diet and exercise in most
people, and since diabetes is potentially very harmful (even
deadly), prevention is key.
There are many things families can do to help their child
avoid Type 2 diabetes:
Type 2 diabetes is preventable; it is up to us to make
sometimes difficult, but ultimately rewarding, lifestyle
Dr. Lisa Thornton, a mother of three, is director of pediatric rehabilitation at Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital and LaRabida Children’s Hospital. She also is assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Chicago.
See more of Dr. Thornton's stories here.
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