By: Robert Tanenberg
One of the most alarming studies tobe published in recent years was theprediction that one in three children bornafter the year 2000 will develop type 2diabetes during his or her lifetime.
Given this forthcoming epidemic, it isimportant to ask, can type 2 diabetes beprevented?
The answer, clearly, is yes.
Nearly One in Three Kids Are Overweight
In a recent study, 30 percent of U.S.adolescents aged 12 to 19 were found to beoverweight. Some of the associations notedin this study were:
- Ethnicity (there was more obesity in Mexican American boys and African American girls).
- Children who get the least physical activity are more likely to become overweight or obese.
- The more hours of television a child watches, the greater the chances that he or she will become obese.
Lifestyle Changes Are the Key
Let’s assume that your child is overweightand you have a positive family history oftype 2 diabetes. What can you do to keepyour high-risk child free of type 2 diabetes?
There are numerous lifestyle changes thatyou can help your child make that will makea difference. The NIH-sponsored type 2diabetes prevention trial demonstrated a 58percent reduction in the incidence of type 2diabetes in a high-risk group using lifestylechanges that led to increased activity andweight loss.
See below for my 10 suggested lifestylechanges for children and adolescents.
10 Ways to Keep Kids Type 2-Free
Dr. Tanenberg’s suggested lifestyle changes for children and adolescents
- Have children screened regularly for prediabetes.
- Have their height and weight recorded, their waist circumference measured and their body mass index (BMI) calculated every year to see how they compare with their peers. (For a free childhood growth chart and BMI calculator, see http://pediatrics.about.com/cs/usefultools).
- Serve fresh fruits and vegetables at every meal.
- Serve food on individual plates rather than “family style” for better portion control.
- Have a “no TV during mealtime” policy—and stick to it.
- No snacks after 9 p.m. on school nights and 11 p.m. on weekends.
- Find an organized sport or other physical activity they enjoy doing for at least 30 minutes per day.
- Buy a pedometer for the child to wear and reward him or her for walking every 5 or 10 miles.
- Limit television to one hour per day on school days and two hours on weekends.
- If your child is overweight, set realistic weekly targets for weight loss. Offer non-food rewards when targets are met and when the child keeps the weight off for an entire month.
What about medications to prevent type 2 diabetes?
The NIH-sponsored type 2 diabetes prevention trial also demonstratedthat metformin successfully prevented diabetes in 31 percent of the patients.
Unpublished data indicate that the glitazone drug used in that study (similarto Actos or Avandia) was successful in 70 percent of the cases.
All these drugs are considered “off label” when prescribedfor a nondiabetic individual. It would be much easier to justify one of thesemedications if your child meets the diagnostic criteria for the metabolicsyndrome, prediabetes or polycystic ovarian disorder. If so, you need to ask your physician if he or she is willing to prescribe them to prevent diabetes in your child.
Your doctor may agree to try medication in addition to the recommendedlifestyle changes.