Obesity, along with diet and lifestyle, is closely linked with type 2 diabetes.
“The obesity rates in the U.S. have been relatively stable since 2003-04 with a decline in rates recently, mainly in younger children rather than in older children, so I am not too surprised in the continued rise in type 2 (diabetes) in youth from 2001 to 2009, but I am hopeful that the rate of type 2 in youth will level off over the next five years,” Dr. Georgeanna J. Klingensmith told Reuters Health in an email.
Klingensmith, from the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora, was not part of the new study.
“I do think that we are better at diagnosing type 2 diabetes in youth today than we were 10-15 years ago, so part of the increase in type 2 diabetes may be related to improved detection of diabetes due to screening children at high risk,” she said.
The increase in type 2 diabetes seemed mostly to be driven by increases among minority populations, Dabelea said.
“Since minorities typically have less optimal (blood sugar) control, less access to care and more obesity, these are strong risk factors for type 2 diabetes,” she said.
Type 1 diabetes is not caused by obesity, so it could become more common regardless of U.S. obesity rates, Klingensmith said.
It’s still unclear what exactly causes type 1 diabetes, but it has been steadily increasing in European countries as well, Dabelea said.
“For type 1 we can’t really advise families to do anything differently,” she said.
“For type 2 diabetes on the other hand, since that’s so closely related to obesity it’s likely that implementing programs for kids and families being careful of certain things from very early in life is going to be important.”
To protect against type 2 diabetes, parents should help their children avoid excessive weight gain, eat less fried food and more fresh vegetables and get 30 to 60 minutes of exercise per day, Klingensmith said.