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Parents can help to prevent diabetes in children

Published:Wednesday | May 28, 2014 | 12:00 AM

There are more than 10,000 children with diabetes in Jamaica. Thy are often teased, called names such as 'sweet baby', and discriminated against. Children with diabetes often times have low self- esteem and become anti-social.

The risk factors for diabetes in children (juvenile diabetes) are:

Being overweight or obese. thirty-five per cent of Jamaican teenagers, 11 per cent of children ages 11 to 15, and 20 per cent of children three to four years old, are overweight.

Having a family history of diabetes. More than 300,000 persons in Jamaica have diabetes, and diabetes is a disease that may be passed on from generation to generation.

Inappropriate food intake. Consumption of high fat, high sugar, low fibre or refined foods.

Lack of, or limited physical activity. Today, children spend less time doing physical activities such as skipping, hoola hooping, playing 'box ball' and 'dandy shandy', instead watching television and playing video games.

Diabetes in children can be prevented or delayed by following these tips.

Offer a variety of foods from the six Caribbean food groups in moderation.

Do not force, threaten or beat child to finish meal or snack.

Offer three meals and two to three healthy snacks everyday.

Offer more fibre-rich or unrefined or unprocessed foods such as yam, green banana, dasheen, whole-wheat products (made with 100 per cent whole-wheat flour) and whole grains.

Offer more peas and beans prepared in a creative way. Peas and beans can be cooked and added to meats, for example broad beans in curried chicken.

Offer more fresh raw vegetables with little or no salad dressings.

Offer more fresh whole fruits instead of juices. Whole fresh fruits provide more fibre and vitamins than juices or drinks.

Offer milk, meat and chicken that are low in fat. Remove skin and visible fat from animal flesh and serve low-fat milk if child is overweight.

Use less oil, butter or margarine when preparing meals.

Offer low-fat, low-sugar snacks such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Limit chips, pastries, biscuits and cookies.

Offer more water (plain or flavoured) and less juices and drinks.

Allow child to play and use up energy to prevent the storage of fat on the body. Being physically active and providing the correct amount of food can prevent weight gain and reduce the chances of becoming overweight or obese.

Set a good example by making healthy food choices. Parents and guardians are to be role models for the children ... do what you want to get done.

The Diabetes Association of Jamaica, under the leadership of endocrinologist, Professor Errol Morrison, has spearheaded a number of interventions locally to manage diabetes in children.

These interventions include:

The Life for a Child programme. Developed to provide insulin, blood-glucose machine (glucometer), blood-glucose strips, insulin syringes and medical support through the health team at various public hospitals and clinics islandwide.

MoDI Youth guide. The guidelines for the Medical Management of Diabetes in Youth, 18 years and under, in Jamaica.

Camp Yellow Bird. A one-week residential camp for children with diabetes which is held the third week in July annually. This camp has been up and running for more than 20 years.

Childhood diabetes can be prevented, but parents have to take the responsibility to break the cycle of diabetes in children.

Let us teach our children how to make healthy food choices and 'run up and down' with them so they will not gain extra pounds.

Marsha N. Woolery, RD, is a registered dietitian/nutritionist at Fairview Medical and Dental Center, Montego Bay and adjunct lecturer at Northern Caribbean University; email: