Diabetes Mellitus Epidemic Possible in Future

Childhood obesity is a growing problem in the United States and around the western world.

A new wave of diabetes mellitus could be in store for the United States as more and more cases of childhood obesity fuel fears of an epidemic. According to HealthDay News, new research shows that the length of time a person carries excess weight directly increases their likelihood of developing diabetes, meaning today’s obese children could become tomorrow’s diabetics.

“A disease that used to be confined to older people is creeping into high schools. At best, this is alarming,” said John Anderson, vice president of medicine and science for the American Diabetes Association. “This obesity epidemic we have is fueling an epidemic of diabetes in young people.”

In fact, rates of obesity among children and teenagers have tripled since 1980, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show. About one in five American children are now clinically obese. This is concerning because obesity prevents the body from absorbing insulin and converting glucose, leading to type 2 diabetes.

Now, Anderson says children born in the year 2000 face a one in three chance of developing diabetes. That risk actually increases for those who are ethnic minorities, such as African American, Native American or Hispanic.

“We worry this will be the first generation of Americans who don’t live as long as their parents did,” Anderson said. The link between excess weight and diabetes risk was established by a research team at the University of Michigan. Scientists observed the health records of 8,000 teens and young adults and found that those who carried a higher body mass index (BMI) for a longer period of time had a greater risk of developing diabetes. Sheri Colberg-Ochs of Old Dominion University in Virginia told HealthDay that children need to start becoming healthier to counteract the grim trend. Healthy living skills need to become part of a child’s daily life, she said. “It’s not just the weight, per-se. It’s the lifestyle they’ve developed that caused them to gain the extra weight,” said Colberg-Ochs, adding that kids need to start eating healthier foods and becoming more active. “Those two things alone would probably solve the problem of childhood obesity, were society to pursue them vigorously,” she said.
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