Prediabetes on the Rise Among Children

Prediabetes on the Rise Among Children

By Sadé Meeks, MS, RD

Type 1 Diabetes was once known as Juvenile Diabetes because it was thought to be an autoimmune disease that only impacted kids. However, it is now known that adults can be diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as well. Type 1 diabetes is when your body destroys its pancreatic cells and can no longer produce insulin. Just as both adults and children are impacted by Type 1 diabetes, the same is true for Type 2 diabetes. With type 2 diabetes, our bodies are able to produce insulin, but it may not be enough or effective. When this happens, high amounts of glucose remain in the bloodstream. Today, more children are at risk for Type 2 diabetes than ever.[1] A recent CDC report showed that nearly 1 in 5 adolescents in the United States has prediabetes — chronically elevated blood sugar levels that can put children at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Adolescents with prediabetes were also shown to have elevated cholesterol and blood pressure, putting them at risk for cardiovascular disease as well.

Prediabetes risk factors among children[2]:

  • Overweight – Excess weight, especially around the abdomen, can increase one’s resistance to insulin.
  • Sedentary Lifestyle – Physical activity helps the body use insulin better, but the lack thereof can have adverse risks.
  • Age – Children that develop Type 2 diabetes have greater risks during puberty. The changes in hormones during this time can make it harder for the body to use insulin.
  • Family History – Having a family member with type 2 diabetes increases one’s risks.
  • Ethnicity – Being African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American/Alaska Native, Asian American, or Pacific Islander.
  • Health History – Having one or more conditions related to insulin resistance.

What can we do?

Though most of the risk factors are uncontrollable, there are two important lifestyle changes that have proven really powerful against these risk factors – diet and physical activity.

  • Diet: Diet, in this case, doesn’t refer to the latest fad. More practically, diet changes refer to making more nutritious conscious decisions like eating less fried foods, avoiding sugary beverages, and eating more whole grains! Healthy eating is inclusive all five major food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy
  • Physical Activity: Physical Activity doesn’t mean you have to enroll your child in tons of sports. The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children and adolescents ages 6 through 17 do 60 minutes (1 hour) or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily. Simply encouraging your child to play outside can help. Try jumping rope, riding a bicycle, rollerblading, skateboarding, playing hide and seek…just get moving. It all counts towards physical activity.