For years, health experts have predicted that Type 2 diabetes would become a severe problem among today’s youth as obesity rates continue to rise. Unfortunately, those predictions are coming true. For the first time ever experts have conclusive evidence that Type 2 diabetes among youth has reached epidemic-status, and only seems to be worsening.
Researchers analyzed data from a study of more than 3,800 youth ages 12 to 19 who participated in a federal survey. According to the report published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers found that the number of teens with diabetes or ‘pre-diabetes’ (individuals showing early signs of diabetes), rose from 9 percent in 1999 to 23 percent in 2021.
Previously, health experts and physicians rarely saw diabetes in kids. But it’s becoming more and more common as more children in our country are being diagnosed as overweight or obese. This news is especially alarming as diabetes is also known to cause such related issues as blindness, nerve damage, heart attack and stroke.
David S. Ludgwig, a childhood obesity expert at Children’s Hospital in Boston told NPR recently that these new figures are sending a clear signal. “That’s a shockingly high figure that has dire implications to the health of this entire generation of children,” he said. “This report really sounds the alarm. It’s one thing for an overweight or obese 55-year-old gaining an extra few pounds a year to develop diabetes at age 65 and then have a heart attack. It’s a very different thing if the clock starts ticking at age 10. Children have so many more years to suffer from the consequences of these serious medical problems related to obesity.”
Ludwig also stated that many other diseases could also start showing up as a result of Type 2 diabetes in children, including heart attack, kidney failure and other conditions such a high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
“The impact of the epidemic will continue to mount for many years as this generation of children carry these increased risk factors into adulthood, and carry the burden of chronic disease for so many years longer than ever has been the case in history,” he said.
Researchers also found that the epidemic seems to be affecting one gender more than the other, putting females at a higher risk.
Melinda S. Sothern of Louisiana Sate University, is especially concerned about the high rate of diabetes in teenage girls. “These are teen girls – adolescent girls – who are going to become mothers in the next five to 10 years,” she says. “And if their weight is not healthy, we’re going to have another generation of these children with metabolic problems that lead to diabetes and pre-diabetes.”
To fight off this alarming trend, experts say young people are going to have to use medication, strict dieting, exercise and keep a vigilant watch on their health – all of which can be quite expensive. And not just for themselves, but for society as a whole.
It seems this is only more bad news piled on top of other negative reports, including the prediction that obesity could affect 43 percent of Americans by the year 2030. There clearly needs to be a change. The question is, what will it be?