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Preventing Type 2 Diabetes in Children

From the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston

The staff of Joslin Diabetes Center is particularly alarmed about the increasing incidence of type 2 diabetes among young people. Once considered a disease of middle-aged or older adults, type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes is increasing significantly among youngsters and young adults, in large part due to increasing obesity in the United States. Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which the body is unable to make enough or properly use insulin to convert food to energy.

Several weeks ago Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials estimated that one out of three Americans born in 2000 will develop diabetes during their lifetime and most of these cases will be type 2. This translates into an estimated lifetime risk of about 33 percent for men and 39 percent for women. Government statistics predict that, unchecked, these figures will increase 165 percent by the year 2050.

The good news is that — unlike type 1 diabetes, which requires insulin injections for an individual to survive — much can be done to prevent or slow type 2 diabetes. Studies at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, the global leader in diabetes research, care and education, and elsewhere have shown that modest weight loss and regular exercise — such as walking — can reduce a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58 percent.

What Can You Do to Help Make a Difference?

Parents, teachers and others who work with children and teens can do much to help youngsters avoid developing type 2 diabetes, according to Lori Laffel, M.D., M.P.H., Chief of the Pediatrics and Adolescent Unit at Joslin in Boston. "If you are a parent, a teacher, a coach, a mentor, or anyone who cares for young people, like me, you may be very concerned about this troubling growth in the occurrence of type 2 diabetes," Laffel says. "You can learn what you can do to help by reviewing the following information from Joslin."

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