Three decades ago, type 2 diabetes wasn’t associated with children, but with middle-aged adults. In the 30 years that have passed since the advent of the Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef” ad campaign, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Apple’s Mac computer, however, a lot has changed.
And today, kids are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at an alarming rate, and cases in youth aged 10 to 19 have risen by more than 30 percent over the last decade.
According to a 2007 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, about 3,700 new cases of type 2 diabetes are diagnosed a year in the United States, and as of 2009, about 20,000 children under 18 had been diagnosed.
At the start of her career, Sheah Rarback, the director of nutrition at the University of Miami’s Mailman Center for Child Development, “rarely saw kids who were diabetic,” including kids with type 1, she said in an interview with the Miami Herald, where she also writes a nutrition column.
“The first five to 10 years I never saw a kid who was Type 2 diabetic and now I see it regularly,” said added.
Now, both type 1 and type 2 are part of the vernacular when it comes to young people, especially as more kids – a third of all children, according to statistics, are classified as either overweight or obese.
“A third of children are overweight and it’s a growing problem because that can carry on in life,” Erin Corrigan, nutrition manager at Miami Children’s Hospital, told the Miami Herald. “It’s a continuing problem because there are so many processed foods and convenience foods available. A lot of marketing is directed to children, and the products are eye-level at the grocery store with colorful cartoon characters. The manufacturers are savvy about making something kid-friendly.”
The risks of being overweight or obese for kids include cardiovascular disease, sleep apnea and bone and joint pain, along with type 2 diabetes and the complications associated with the disease, including neuropathy.
But even losing 10 pounds can make a big difference in a child who is overweight or obese, and can cut the risk of type 2 diabetes in half, experts say.
According to nutritional experts from Holtz Children’s Hospital, Miami Children’s Hospital, the Mailman Center at the University of Miami and Memorial Regional Hospital, tips to help keep your kids free from diabetes include:
• Trade buttermilk pancakes for buckwheat or whole wheat, and top with fruit puree instead of syrup.
• Skip Pop Tarts and breakfast bars, which are high in sugar, and instead serve whole-wheat toast with nut butter for both whole grains and protein.
• Make homemade chicken nuggets at home with whole wheat bread crumbs or crushed cereal instead of serving the processed varieties.
• Use whole-wheat bread in place of white for sandwiches, and swap cheddar or American cheeses for lower-fat Swiss or mozzarella.
• Turkey burgers are a great substitute for traditional hamburgers.
• Skip sugar-loaded juices and sports drinks and choose water instead.
• On taco night, add lots of fresh veggies and replace cheese with black beans or avocado.
• Make homemade pizzas instead of frozen or takeout and load up on onions, peppers, zucchini slices, fresh tomatoes and basil.
• Sneak extra veggies into spaghetti sauce in place of meat and serve it with whole-wheat pasta instead of traditional.
• Limit TV time in order to encourage physical activity, such as a walk after dinner. Do this as a family, so everyone benefits.