Children Now at Risk for Type 2 Diabetes; until Recently, Whatused to Be Called Adult-Onset Diabetes Rarelyhit before Middle Age

Article excerpt

Byline: Joyce Howard Price, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Type 2 diabetes, the most common variety, used to be called adult-onset diabetes because it rarely occurred before middle age, but in recent years, doctors have diagnosed Type 2 diabetes in many young adolescents and children, some no older than 6.

"Ten years ago, we never saw Type 2 diabetes in kids, ... but in the past several years, we've uncovered a significant increase in Type 2 diabetes in children," John H. Graham IV, chief executive officer of the American Diabetes Association, said yesterday in a telephone interview.

Dr. Lori Laffel, head of the pediatric unit at the Joslin Diabetes Center of Boston, said staff there have seen a tenfold rise in childhood Type 2 diabetes in the past decade.

"There is an epidemic of Type 2 diabetes in youth, absolutely," she told the Associated Press.

The main reason children are getting Type 2 diabetes, Mr. Graham said, is that they are getting fat from unhealthy diets and a lack of exercise.

Nationwide data on the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes in children are still being collected, but Mr. Graham said he has no reason to question the Joslin Center's estimates.

He called the fact that more and more children are developing diabetes a "huge concern," given that these youngsters could be facing diabetic complications such as blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks and amputations in another 10 or 20 years.

Obesity is a risk factor for diabetes, just as it is for heart disease.

"Nowadays, we're seeing that 15 to 20 percent of kids are obese," meaning they are at least 30 percent above normal body weight, Mr. Graham said.

According to the ADA, an estimated 17 million Americans have diabetes. About 1 million of them have Type 1 diabetes, which requires insulin injections because their pancreases can't produce insulin to metabolize glucose.

Of the estimated 16 million Americans who have Type 2 diabetes, about 6 million of them don't even know it, Mr. Graham said.

The pancreases of people with Type 2 still produce some insulin but not enough. Most patients with Type 2 control their blood sugar with pills and diet, but about 1 million or 2 million Type 2 diabetics also require insulin, the ADA executive said. …