It is no hidden fact that diabetes is one of the major lifestyle diseases causing death in India, so much so that in the recent years India is being touted as the diabetic capital of the world. While one may assume that this disease is prevalent among adults and the elderly, cases of diabetes in children are shockingly on the rise too. Delving into the risk factors, you get to see the obvious, which streams mainly from sedentary lifestyle. In a 2015 pan-India report, it was found that a whopping 66.11 percent of Indian children possessed “abnormal levels of sugar” in their body. The three year-long study was conducted on 17,000 children, and it attributed the triggers as urbanisation, changes in eating habits, shifting focus on indoor activities with dramatic lifestyle changes.One would assume that children commonly engage in numerous physical activities in schools and homes, and lead an active lifestyle. But in reality, following unhealthy habits of parents and other adults, they are getting hooked on gadgets, spending more time indoors on the couch rather than participating in outdoor activities, binge eating, living on processed and junk foods, so on and so forth. All of these are impacting their health in many ways than one. In the end, it’s all about discipline – whether it’s to do with diet or physical fitness.
Diabetes is a lifelong condition, wherein the hormone insulin is unable to break down sugars from food and convert it into energy. As a result, the blood sugar level goes up, disrupting various functions of the body. Here are some common risk factors of diabetes in children –
1. Cut Down on Sugar
According to a study done by the Imperial College London, children are everyday consuming up to three times more sugar than what is good for them. “The results of this survey are extremely worrying. At a time when one in three 10-year-old children are overweight or obese, and one in three five-year-olds has tooth decay, the health risks posed by failure to tackle sugar intake are serious,” stated Professor Neena Modi, lead author of the study. The study found that children below the age of 18, were consuming sugary drinks every day, and their sugar intake was almost three times more than the recommended limit. Most children were obese too, consuming high amounts of saturated fats.
2. Don’t Skip Breakfast
It’s not without reason that they say that one should eat breakfast like a king. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, which sets in motion various vital functions of the body. According to a study done by researchers from Oxford, Cambridge, Glasgow and St George’s Universities in England, kids who eat regular breakfast may have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. They found that skipping breakfast increased the risk of insulin resistance in children, bringing about a spike in sugar levels. Moreover, skipping breakfast also resulted in unhealthy snacking putting them at risk of obesity.
3. Prevent Fatty Liver
Well, fatty liver isn’t only to do with alcohol consumption. There’s a condition which is known as non-alcoholic fatty liver. According to a US-based study, about seven million children in the U.S. have fatty livers, and nearly a third of those kids also have prediabetes or diabetes. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) “is one of the biggest risk factors for the development of type 2 diabetes in children,” said Dr. Jeffrey B. Schwimmer, director of the Fatty Liver Clinic at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. “The prevalence of type 2 diabetes is 1 in 200 in children with obesity, and 1 in 15 in children with NAFLD.” NAFLD can cause scarring in the liver and can lead to liver failure.
4. Obesity is the Main Cause
As parents, we of course want our kids to be at the best of health, but that doesn’t mean overfeeding them and being okay with them being plump. There is a difference. And in India, many parents fail to differentiate between their kids being healthy and obese. Abdominal obesity in children is directly related to metabolic diseases, including high blood pressure and diabetes, stated an India-based study. “In my daily practice, I am seeing many children who are getting diseases which were earlier seen only in adults, primarily because of obesity. It is shocking to see children as young as six years with diseases like hypertension, diabetes mellitus and abnormalities in the lipid profile. In this study we found 350 children suffering from hypertension,” said Dr. Archana Dayal Arya, co-author of the study.
It is of utmost importance to make kids cut down on high calorie foods like junk food and provide them with more nutrients.
5. Ditch Screen Time, and Engage in Physical Activities
In a shocking report, more and more children seem to disengaging from physical activities, even as young as seven years old. Physical fitness is crucial for the healthy development of children, keeping them fit and active. But with the popularity of gadgets – smartphones, video games, tablets, laptops and even TV – they seem to be spending more time using them than heading out for sports. According to a recent UK-based study, children spending more than three hours staring at smartphone, TV screens or their computer systems are at a risk of developing type-2 diabetes. Extended periods of screen time can cause increased levels of body fat and insulin resistance in children.