Type 2 Diabetes: Not Just for Adults Anymore

It used to be called late- or adult-onset diabetes; now it is called type 2. Instead of occurring primarily in people in their 60s or 70s, it is now found in people of all ages—even youngsters in grade school.

In Dr. Atkins’s medical practice, we started to see this trend in kids and teens in the early 1990s. If the children were overweight and had a family history of diabetes, we often found that they had type 2. This was virtually unheard of only a decade earlier.

The reason there is rampant type 2 in kids today is the same reason there is rampant type 2 in adults: excess body fat and a sedentary lifestyle. Yet it is still thought by many that children will outgrow their “baby fat,” and that sugary treats and french fries are okay to eat on a regular basis.

As a practitioner, it was frustrating trying to talk with parents or grandparents about how to replace sweets for their kids. They often felt that they would be punishing their kids if they withheld sweets. Yet we must face facts and find solutions.

A recent report published by the International Journal of Pediatric Obesity states that by 2010, 50 percent of American children will be overweight. Eighty percent of kids with type 2 are seriously overweight or obese at the time of diagnosis.

Another study, published in Diabetes Care, reports that kids with type 2 developed serious complications sooner than kids with type 1.

The Solutions: Education and Prevention

Parents and the public must be better informed of the risks of diabetes and must begin to practice prevention. We need to be aware of family history and the signs that blood glucose imbalances leading to diabetes are present.

In our medical practice, we observed that people with diabetic tendencies often have trouble controlling their cravings for sugary foods and foods made with refined flour. They find it difficult to limit their intake of these foods, and they can develop hard-to-control cravings that lead to a high intake of poor-quality carbohydrates and excessive calories—both of which cause weight gain.

From early in your child’s life, limit the quantity of foods with added sugars and those made from refined grains.

Think of making changes leading to a healthier lifestyle for your family as a long-term project. Take it day to day, and don’t get discouraged. The results in the long run will be worth it.

How Do I Get Started?

  • Be realistic and recognize if your child is at risk for obesity or type 2
  • Talk to your doctor and find out your child’s body mass index (BMI)
  • Accept that making healthier food choices is a family affair regardless of weight
  • Set a good example for your child
  • Limit the intake of sweetened beverages—always read food labels for sugar content and other nutritional information
  • Remember that sports or energy drinks may have as much sugar as regular sodas
  • Get everyone in the family exercising and more active on a regular basis
  • Limit television or computer time
  • Remove the TV from the kids’ rooms
  • Provide a good breakfast containing some protein to better control hunger
  • Start by making small dietary changes
  • Recognize that kids’ diets won’t be perfect, and they will still eat some less-healthful foods now and then
  • Talk about food in terms of health and nutrition, rather than in terms of weight or diets