Diabetes Complications Worse In Children

Until recently type 2 diabetes was thought of as a disease found in obese adults. However, over the past 20 years, type 2 diabetes is emerging rapidly in children and adolescents. The increase is related to the increase of obesity which has doubled in children. Obesity causes insulin resistance and is, therefore, a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

When the body is insulin resistant, it may be producing enough insulin, but it doesn’t use insulin efficiently. Insulin—a hormone produced by the pancreas, helps move glucose into cells where it is used for energy. When this doesn’t happen, glucose stays in the bloodstream causing blood glucose—also called blood sugar, levels to rise. In response, the pancreas produces more insulin to bring blood glucose levels down. Eventually, the pancreas can’t keep up with the demand, and type 2 develops.

Research shows that the greater the degree of obesity in children, the greater the degree of not only insulin resistance but high blood pressure and high triglyceride levels. This can ultimately lead to diabetes, strokes, and heart disease. As a matter of fact, researchers predict that children today will be the first generation in 100 years not expected to outlive their parents. Surprising findings from a recent study seem to confirm that prediction.

Seventy-two percent of youth in the study with type 2 diabetes had nephropathy (kidney disease), retinopathy (eye disease) and peripheral neuropathy (nerve disease)—long-term complications of diabetes. These complications occur from damage to cells as a result of the persistent elevation of blood glucose.