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Children with Type 2 Diabetes Face 3 Extra Health Risks

children and type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes, once seen primarily among adults, is now developing in a growing number of children. A new study points out that children with type 2 diabetes face 3 extra health risks compared with individuals who acquire the disease as adults, and those risks carry lifetime consequences.

What health risks do your children face?

A recent article in Diabetes Forecast reported that there are about 3,700 new cases of type 2 diabetes per year among young people in the United States, based on a 2007 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The article also noted that the recent SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth study showed that type 2 diabetes in 10- to 19-year-olds had risen 21 percent between 2001 and 2009.

As the rates of overweight and obesity rise among children and adolescents, so does the number of young people who develop type 2 diabetes and its associated health risks. However, certain ethnic groups are more likely to develop the disease than others.

For example, American Indian youths have the highest prevalence of type 2 diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Pima Indians in Arizona top the list, with a prevalence of 50.9 cases per 1,000, and a rate of 4.5 per 1,000 for all American Indian populations.

Comparatively, researchers at Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati reported that African-American males and females were 3.5 and 6.1 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, respectively, than were children of European descent. Another report noted that 31 percent of Mexican-American children had type 2 diabetes compared with 3 percent of white children.

Now in this latest study, headed by University of Texas (UT) pediatricians, it’s been reported that children with type 2 diabetes are at increased risk of developing at least three serious problems faster and at a greater rate than are people who develop type 2 diabetes as adults. Those complications are:

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Kidney disease, also called diabetic nephropathy
  • Eye problems, the most common of which is diabetic retinopathy

The researchers came to this conclusion after analyzing data from 699 children and adolescents.

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The participants were randomly assigned to one of three treatment groups at the start of the study: metformin (the standard of care for type 2 diabetes), metformin plus rosiglitazone (Avandia), or metformin plus intensive lifestyle instruction. Here’s what the investigators found.

  • More than 33 percent of the participants required medication to treat high blood pressure or kidney disease 3.9 years after they entered the study
  • Although children who took the two drugs fared best, all of the participants did not do well. For example, beta cell function (cells that produce and release insulin) deteriorated nearly four times faster in children than it does in adults
  • Both boys and girls developed kidney disease at about the same rates
  • Obese males were 81 percent more likely to develop high blood pressure

According to Jane Lynch, MD, the study’s principal investigator in the San Antonio arm of the study and a professor of pediatric endocrinology in the School of Medicine at UT Health Science Center, “What’s especially challenging for these children is that many also develop fatty liver, which limits our use of the drugs that control hypertension.”

How to combat child type 2 diabetes
Weight is the number one issue among children with type 2 diabetes. According to Silva Arslanian, MD, a pediatric endocrinologist at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, “We don’t even entertain the possibility of type 2 when a child isn’t overweight.”

To combat childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes, the battle begins with the parents or other responsible adults in a child’s life. These individuals need to realize the critical importance of ensuring young people get a nutritious diet, adequate exercise, and work toward achieving a healthful weight.

In conjunction with these actions, five other simple steps families can take to help children lose weight and either avoid or manage type 2 diabetes include using smaller plates, having more frequent meals, starting the day with a healthful breakfast, reducing the amount of time children spend in front of a TV or computer screen, and getting adequate sleep.

Children who have type 2 diabetes are at great risk of health complications that can seriously jeopardize their quality of life and their life span. Parents and other responsible adults need to take action immediately to stop the rising tide of type 2 diabetes in children and the associated health risks.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Gebel E. More kids than ever have type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Forecast. 2012 Nov.
TODAY study group. Rapid rise in hypertension and nephropathy in youth with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care 2013 June; 36(6): 1735-41
University of Texas Health Sciences Center

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