Type 2 diabetes epidemic: Concern for kids

Number of cases skyrocketing in people under 20 years old

Published On: Sep 30 2012 09:11:07 PM EDT   Updated On: Oct 01 2012 06:20:00 AM EDT

Type 2 diabetes, known as adult onset diabetes, has a new target - our kids.  This type of diabetes, known to be caused by obesity, is skyrocketing in people under the age of 20.  And the more terrifying fact, it progresses faster and is harder to treat, the younger you are.

Trahnel Mays has been living with type 2 diabetes since she was 13.  She's part of an alarming, growing, dangerous trend.

“Ten to 20 years ago, this was unheard of. When we had a child with diabetes that child had type one,” said Robin Goland, MD, with Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center at Columbia University.

According to the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, int eh last five years, type 2 diabetes in children has doubled.  Goland says her youngest patient now is just eight years old.

“That’s what we’re seeing are these very overweight children, teens and young adults getting what used to be an adult form of diabetes," she said.

Type 2 diabetes begins when the body develops a resistance to insulin.  When the need for insulin rises, the pancreas gradually loses its ability to regulate blood sugar.

A National Institutes of Health study found that half of all newly diagnosed teens failed to maintain stable blood sugar.  One in five suffered serious complications as a result.

“The first kids with type two diabetes had worse cholesterol and triglycerides than these older men and women who were already having heart attacks,” said Goland.

One hurdle for doctors, the medications Metformin and Avandia used to control type 2 diabetes in adults, is not working as well in children.

“Unless we take drastic measures to prevent it, this will be a huge problem,” warned Goland.

Family history and poor eating habits are red flags and researchers now say how your child spends his or her day could also have an impact.  A study by the Mayo Clinic shows for every two hours of television time, the chance of developing type 2 diabetes increases by 20 percent.

Sleep is also essential.  A University of Chicago study showed when people slept less than eight hours, their blood sugar was higher and they were less sensitive to insulin.