Today, November 14 is celebrated as World Diabetes Day around the world. This United Nations' recognised day, is part of a campaign which seeks to raise awareness of the prevalence of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents.
Diabetes, one of the leading chronic diseases in adults, has a high burden of mortality and morbidity. Globally, more than 240 million adults have diabetes and the number is predicted to increase to 380 million in 20 years. Children and adolescents are not spared from this debilitating disease and more of them are getting the condition.
Type 1 diabetes, considered an autoimmune condition, used to be the leading diabetes found in children, but Type 2 diabetes, once considered an adult disease, is now growing at an alarming rate in children and adolescents. In the United States of America, up to 45 per cent of new cases of diabetes in children are Type 2! There is a significant number of children in Jamaica with Type 1 diabetes and the number for Type 2 is also growing.
The risk factors for Type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents is similar to those of adulthood and include:
Overweight and obesity.
If your child has increasing or persistent overweight and generalised fatness, especially in the belly region; if he/she displays dark, rough-looking pigmentation around the neck and in the fat creases like the inside elbow and if they are inactive, does not take part in outdoor play or other physical activities you need to seek the guidance of a paediatrician.
The role of nutrition
Nutrition can play a major role in preventing Type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents.
Breastfeeding is the first complete food that should be given to the infant. Exclusive breastfeeding ensures optimal nutrition for the infant and can help to prevent over nutrition.
Babies need careful transitioning to foods from the family pot and their diet should at this stage consist of foods from the six Caribbean food group (staples, legumes, food from animals, fruits, vegetables, fats and oils) given in increasing portions as the child ages and with a reduction of breast milk.
Children should avoid highly dense processed foods which are poor in nutrients such as juice drinks, sodas, high-fat and sugary snacks and other such foods.
Parents should prepare more meals at home and encourage family meals to reduce overeating and excess snacking on sparse-nutrient foods among other poor eating habits.
Children should be encouraged from early to consume fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrate, legumes and low fat meats and dairy.
They should be encouraged to take part in meal preparation of wholesome foods so they can prepare their own healthy meals when necessary.
Children should be encouraged to take part in high-activity play at school and home on a daily basis.
Children should have two hours of cumulative play on a daily basis for their health and well being.
Children should be encouraged to walk when this is safe, as this not only helps to reduce excess body fat but also improves their bone density.
Parents who already have overweight children need to immediately seek help from a paediatrician and a registered dietitian. Changing family habits early can positively impact the family and prevent Type 2 diabetes in your child.
The Ministry of Health and the Regional Health Authorities are recognising World Diabetes Day and there will be various activities at the Cornwall Regional Hospital.
Rosalee M. Brown is a registered dietitian/nutritionist who operates Integrated Nutrition and Health Services; email: email@example.com.