Type 2 diabetes on the rise among youngsters

According to a new study, more and more young people are being treated for Type 2 diabetes and this is cause for alarm.

The study from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has found that the number of patients in their youth being treated for type 2 diabetes has risen by 41 percent over the last four years.

The team looked at data from 715 people under the age of 25 years treated for type 2 diabetes in England and Wales between 2016 and 2017. They noted that 78.6 percent of the patients were obese. According to obesity expert and dietician Nigel Denby this could be the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There may be many more that are unaware of their diabetic status he explained.

Image Credit: kwanchai.c / Shutterstock
Image Credit: kwanchai.c / Shutterstock

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body cannot produce adequate amounts of insulin to regulate the blood sugar. Chronically raised blood sugar is responsible for damage to small and large blood vessels that can lead to several problems including those of the eyes, kidneys and of the cardiovascular system. Type 2 diabetes is linked to obesity and in adults is linked to long term risk of heart disease and stroke.

The study noted that in 2013 and 2014 there were 507 registered cases of type 2 diabetes among the youth. The number since then has risen and Mr. Denby has called all stake holders including parents, paediatricians as well as policy makers to sit up and take action before it is too late. In a statement he said, “If you're a parent looking at your child thinking they're a bit chubby, do something about it. If you're a manufacturer of sugary, fatty food, start taking some social responsibility for the foods you're producing. If you're a fast-food network, start paying some way towards the effects of the foods that you serve. If you're a government, start putting your money where your mouth is. We see an NHS that is on its knees right now and we're already preparing the next generation. Each and every one of those children is going to require thousands and thousands of pounds of healthcare over the next 50, 60 years. We can't afford to let this go on any longer.”

According to Mr Denby, unhealthy dietary choices and leading an inactive life is something that the parents of the child need to stop their children from doing. According to Professor Russell Viner, president of the RCPCH, the “childhood obesity epidemic is starting to bite” as can be seen from these numbers. He added that the true picture may be far more horrifying.

The Local Government Association (LGA), that represents 370 councils in England and Wales has geared up for action to deal with the obesity epidemic among children and among those from ethnic minorities. The numbers show that nearly half of those treated for diabetes in 2016 and 2017 were either black or Asians. Izzi Seccombe, chairwoman of the LGA’s community wellbeing board in a statement said, “These figures are a sad indictment of how we have collectively failed as a society to tackle childhood obesity, one of the biggest health challenges we face. Type 2 diabetes typically develops in adults over the age of 40, so while still rare in children, it is extremely worrying that we are seeing more young people develop the condition. We need urgent action now. Type 2 diabetes can be a lifelong debilitating illness and these figures will only multiply if we delay.”

Eustace de Sousa, from Public Health England (PHE) has said that these changes would not happen overnight but “bold measures” need to be taken to curb obesity among children and youth. He added that the PHE is working with the food industry to make food accessible to children healthier. It is also working towards raising public awareness regarding alteration of lifestyles making them more active.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


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