We’ve all heard of the resurgence of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes in the American population. With more than two-thirds of Americans either overweight (BMI between 25 and 30) or downright obese (30 and above), there’s no wonder this disease is a growing threat to the nation’s health. But there has been an alarming increase in a subtype of diabetes, type 2, that is now, for the first time, being seen more and more in children and teens.

There’s no mystery that type 1 diabetes, the kind where insulin is usually required, has been seen in both children and adults. But type 2, treated primarily with oral anti-diabetic agents in the early stages, has more characteristically been found in adults. All that is changing, and that has doctors, and parents, concerned.

I have written much in my blogs about good health habits, the importance of exercise, a diet low in refined carbohydrates and balanced with fruits, vegetables and lean protein. That’s all kid’s stuff when it comes to healthy living. Basic material. Everyone should, by now, be well versed in the value of this approach.

But still, our nation is suffering. Poor diets, full of sugary soda, empty-calorie snacks full of refined carbohydrates and a sedentary young populace is behind this type 2 diabetes rise in our children and young adults. And it has me scared. If you are a parent, it should get your attention as well.

Those most at risk are females, Native Americans, Asians, Latinos, African Americans, people with a family history of any form of diabetes and, clearly, the overweight, obese and sedentary. These groups tend to have insulin resistance, where the tissues are less responsive to insulin, causing further secretion of this chemical. And, since there appears to be a limited lifetime supply of insulin and the pancreatic cells that make it, all this increased output puts a strain on the endocrine system; a strain that does not belong in young bodies. The signs and symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Increased hunger
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Numbness or tingling in the feet or hands
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Unexplained weight loss

So, with so many children and teens in the US with both type 1 and 2, we have to take action. There are things you can do:

See your doctor, especially if your child is at risk.
Get tested. Blood sugar and serum Hemoglobin A1C are vital.
Make family changes toward healthier living. Encourage healthy diets and one hour of aerobic exercise a day.

This is not an easy battle. Teens are particularly reluctant to parent-induced advice and change. There may be peer-pressure factors as well. Set reasonable goals. Enlist the help of the doctor and a dietician.

With lifestyle changes, this scourge can be delayed or prevented altogether. It’s worth the effort. Visit the American Diabetes Association and Juvenile Diabetes Foundation websites for more information (or see read more about fighting diabetes right here on the Bottom Line website). And good luck!

For more with Dr. Sherer, click here for his podcast and video interviews, or purchase his memoir, The House of Black and White: My Life with and Search for Louise Johnson Morris.

Related Articles