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Type 2 Diabetes Increasing in Children Worldwide

Rising obesity rates may be to blame, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, May 11, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Type 2 diabetes is on the increase among children and teens globally, a new review of more than 110 studies finds.

"We thought we might see this [worldwide rise]," said study co-author Dr. Philip Zeitler, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado Health Science Center, in Denver. "We had become aware these reports were appearing."

The studies reviewed by Zeitler and a colleague document the prevalence of type 2 diabetes, which is linked to obesity, in teens and children in the United States, as well as in Asia, India, New Zealand, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and Far East, South America and Canada. The findings appear in the May issue of The Journal of Pediatrics.

The increasing prevalence of type 2 diabetes in U.S. children and teens was first recognized in the 1990s, Zeitler said. Type 2 diabetes now accounts for up to 45 percent of new cases of diabetes among teens, he said. That percentage is even higher in certain areas, including New York, Taiwan, New Zealand and Canada.

That wasn't always the case. Fifteen years ago, type 2 disease comprised less than 3 percent of all cases of newly diagnosed diabetes in children and teens. In type 2 diabetes, either the body does not make enough insulin -- a hormone that helps the body's cells use and burn sugar -- or cells become desensitized and ignore insulin, which helps move sugar from the bloodstream into cells. Experts say that in decades past, most cases of diabetes diagnosed in kids were type 1, an inherited disorder in which cells in the pancreas fail to make insulin.

In their review, the researchers found that America's diabetic children now have lots of company worldwide.

In Japan, for example, 80 percent of all new cases of diabetes in children and adolescents were classified as type 2, and in Bangkok, one study found that nearly 18 percent of new cases were type 2, up from 5 percent a decade before.

The researchers also found an association between type 2 diabetic parents and their offspring. "The reports seem to follow a pattern -- that where there is a rise in rates among adults, some time later you start to see a rise among the kids," Zeitler said.

About 18 million people in the United States now have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association, although experts believe many people are unaware they have it.

The review finding came as no surprise to Cathy Nonas, a dietitian and director of the Obesity and Diabetes program at North General Hospital, New York, N.Y., and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

"Obesity is on the rise in kids of all ages, in both genders, and in all ethnic groups and all economic areas," she said. As obesity rates rise, so does the likelihood of being diagnoses with type 2 diabetes, Nonas explained. Excess weight and a sedentary lifestyle are strong risk factors for getting type 2 diabetes.

Parents who want to reduce the risk their child will develop diabetes should institute a number of household measures, she said. "Separate eating and TV," Nonas suggested. That way, kids hopefully will learn to distinguish eating from boredom -- such as snacking while watching TV -- from eating due to true hunger.

"Limit TV time," she said. Numerous studies have linked excessive TV viewing to weight gain. You can cut down gradually, she said. "If the TV is on all the time, turn it off for even a half hour and put on music. That would be great."

Pay attention to food choices and portions, she added. Half of the average dinner plate should be filled with vegetables, the nutritionist advised.

Finally, parents should ask a pediatrician or family doctor to assess their child if they have a strong family history of type 2 diabetes, or if they suspect a child may be at higher than average risk, she said.

More information

To learn more about diabetes and your child, visit the American Diabetes Association.

SOURCES: Philip Zeitler, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor, pediatrics, University of Colorado Health Science Center, Denver; Cathy Nonas, R.D., M.S., Certified Diabetes Educator, spokeswoman, American Dietetic Association, and director, obesity and diabetes program, North General Hospital, New York, N.Y.; May 2005 The Journal of Pediatrics
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