To Your Health
June, 2008 (Vol. 02, Issue 06)
Lead by Example
By Dr. Claudia Anrig
There was a time when diabetes was an adult problem rarely, if ever, seen in children. Unfortunately, that has changed. In 2001, the increasing number of obese children throughout the United States led policy-makers to rank it as a critical public health threat.
Since the 1970s, the obesity rate has more than doubled for preschool children (2-5 years old) and adolescents (12-19 years old). It has more than tripled for children ages 6-11 years. Currently, more than 9 million children age 6 or older are obese.
This increase in the rate of childhood obesity is linked directly to the increase in diagnoses of type 2 diabetes, which includes the following risk factors: obesity, little or no physical activity, and family history (at least 75 percent of children with type 2 diabetes have a parent, sister or brother with the disease).
Type 2 Diabetes Explained
Lynn Hardy, ND, director of the Global Institute for Alternative Medicine, defines diabetes as a degenerative metabolic disorder that affects the way our body utilizes the food we eat. Our digestive system breaks down everything we eat into a simple sugar (glucose), which is the main source of fuel for our body. After digestion, glucose moves into our bloodstream where it can be used by the body's cells for energy. This requires the presence of insulin.
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. When we eat, the pancreas is supposed to automatically produce the right amount of insulin to move the glucose from our blood into our cells. For those suffering from diabetes, however, the pancreas either produces little or no insulin, or it ignores the presence of insulin altogether. This results in glucose building up in the blood, overflowing in the urine and passing out of the body. In so doing, the body loses its main source of fuel, despite the fact that the blood contains large amounts of glucose.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin or when the body doesn't use the insulin that was produced effectively. More than 90 percent of cases of diabetes are type 2, and children represent an increasing percentage of the diagnoses.
As with any disease, there are risks involved in ignoring the problem. Type 2 diabetes is notoriously easy to ignore. Most children don't have symptoms when the disease is first diagnosed, but if there are symptoms, they're usually mild, including having to urinate more often, feeling a little more thirsty than normal and losing a little weight for no clear reason.