Friday December 23 2011
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Type 2 Diabetes in Children

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. Millions of Americans have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and many more are unaware they are at high risk. Some groups have a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes than others: African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, as well as the aged population.

In type 2 diabetes, either the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells ignore the insulin. Insulin is necessary for the body to be able to use glucose for energy. When you eat food, the body breaks down all of the sugars and starches into glucose, which is the basic fuel for the cells in the body. Insulin takes the sugar from the blood into the cells. When glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, it can lead to diabetes complications.

In the past, type 2 diabetes was often referred to as “adult-onset diabetes.” Typically, type 2 diabetes didn’t appear until midlife. Now, however, type 2 diabetes is affecting more children than ever. Recent studies suggest that up to 45 percent of childhood diabetes cases are type 2 diabetes.

Childhood Obesity
Why the increase? Many experts believe that the increase in childhood diabetes is related to the obesity epidemic in American children.

“We now have approximately 17 percent of the pediatric population that is overweight. Genetically at-risk children may be acquiring the disease earlier because of the increased insulin resistance associated with their early obesity,” explains Dr. Frank Diamond of the University of South Florida Diabetes Center in Tampa. “We are seeing many children with adult weights in our pediatric clinics.”

Diet and exercise, however, can help children avoid or reverse this condition.

“We know if the diets are corrected and they lose the weight, the diabetes becomes undetectable,” says Dr. Paul Robertson, president of medicine and science at the American Diabetes Association.

Parents need to be both aware of the possibility of type 2 diabetes in children and knowledgeable of the symptoms.

Symptoms include:

  • tiring easily
  • thirst
  • increased urination
  • darkening of the skin on the back of the neck, under the arms and in the groin area

Also, mothers who had gestational diabetes during pregnancy have an increased risk of having children with type 2 diabetes. Additionally, it is important to maintain a healthy diet and an active lifestyle for everyone, but especially in families with a positive family history of type 2 diabetes.

Parents who are concerned that their child might have diabetes should ask for a fasting glucose screening test. This determines how much sugar is in the blood before a person has eaten.

A value over 99 mg/dL is abnormal and suggests impending diabetes or glucose intolerance. A value equal to or greater than 126 mg/dL is diagnostic of diabetes.

Any results above the normal range should be considered red flags.

Tools For Prevention
Avoiding childhood type 2 diabetes is usually within your control, and the solution as simple as diet and exercise.

“Lose weight, be active, eat the right foods,” says Robertson. “Lifestyle modifications can do a great deal in terms of staving off type 2 diabetes.”

Help your child lose at least five percent of his/her body weight if overweight. A diet rich in whole grains, lean proteins, fruits and veggies; and 30 minutes of exercise a day are enough to do the trick.

You can get help changing your family’s diet from a dietitian, if necessary.

Learn more at the American Diabetes Association website at

We often hear coaches talk about how honest and open communication with their players helps to build a strong team. If players know their roles, they can perform at their highest possible levels of their genetic potential.
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