Childhood obesity raises diabetes risk

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin produced by the pancreas.

Type 1 diabetes, once known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, results from a deficiency of insulin secretion because of pancreatic beta-cell damage.

On the other hand, type 2 diabetes occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin or doesn’t make enough insulin.

Type 2 is the most prevalent form of diabetes in adults. But due to the dramatic rise in childhood obesity over the past few decades, overweight children and adolescents are at four times greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than their non-obese peers.

The more fatty tissue children have, especially around the abdomen, their body cells become more resistant to insulin.

Less active children are at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Consuming sugar is not a direct risk factor for type 2 diabetes, although it can have indirect effects like weight gain.

There is nothing we can do to prevent type 1 diabetes. We can only help children manage the complications by maintaining blood sugar control as much as possible and teaching them the importance of a healthy diet and regular physical activities.

Though type 2 diabetes is milder than type 1, it can still cause major health complications especially in tiny blood vessels of kidneys, nerves and eyes, and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Can type 2 diabetes among children be prevented? Yes, the key to preventing type 2 diabetes in children and adults is avoiding obesity through serving them healthy balanced diets which include lots of fibre, wholegrain foods, fruits and vegetables, and encouraging physical activities.

Educating parents about diabetes can also contribute to preventing this life-threatening medical condition.

Dr Rukhsana Parvin is an assistant professor at the Department of Paediatrics, Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College, Dhaka.

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