From an interview with
Dr. Deidre Tyson
McLeod Pediatric Endocrinology
It’s a pandemic of a different type. To McLeod Endocrinologist Dr. Deidre Tyson, childhood obesity constitutes a global pandemic leading to rising rates of diabetes in youth and teens.
Here is a summary of Dr. Tyson’s remarks:
So there are two general common types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is traditionally thought of as juvenile diabetes. It tends to strike children who have not brought this upon themselves through lifestyle choices. It is an autoimmune disease in which their immune system mistakes the cells of the pancreas that secrete insulin as something that is foreign and needs to be destroyed. It’s simply a bad combination of genetics and environmental triggers. Type 2 diabetes is traditionally thought of as adult-onset diabetes, in which a lot of it is influenced by lifestyle, including body mass index, sedentary lifestyle and diet.
It tends to happen in older people, because their pancreas is starting to wear out. So traditionally, we thought of Type 1 diabetes as a child’s disease and Type 2 diabetes as an adult disease.
In recent years, that has all started to change. We’re actually seeing an increase in Type 2 diabetes in children and teenagers. When I was a fellow back in the 1980’s, Type 2 diabetes under the age of 18 was unheard of. Now, it’s increasing at about 3% each year, and it correlates with the increasing obesity. Pediatric obesity is now over 30% of the population of this country and others. It’s a global epidemic — a pandemic of obesity. So, we are seeing a growing prevalence of Type 2 diabetes in youth.
My first job as an endocrinologist is to try to prevent that by seeing children at an early age whose body mass indices (BMI) are above the 99th percentile to see if we can prevent this because we can.
This is truly a battle between the amount of insulin they make and the amount of fat in their bodies. Insulin has to struggle against this in order to maintain a normal blood sugar and, at some point, the pancreas just cannot keep up and the child develops diabetes.
I really love all those commercials where they have these miracle drugs that will melt your belly fat. But it’s not rocket science. It’s just simply an equation of decreasing calories in and increasing calories out, primarily with good food choices and exercise. Walking is a wonderful way to burn calories and easier to do for somebody who’s already carrying around a lot of weight. Telling them to go running or jump a rope is probably not a practical solution when they are carrying a lot of extra weight. However, walking, swimming and other very simple forms of calisthenics could make a huge difference in a child’s life.