Part 1: If you wait until they are diagnosed, it is too late.
This is the beginning. We call it obesity; children measuring over the 85th percentile for weight given their age and height. We used to call it morbid obesity because it triggers chronic health conditions that can threaten your life. Weight problems in children can affect their future health, either more immediately or as they become young adults.
The difference between adult and childhood diabetes
When an adult is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, they are told to lose 10% of their body weight and it may revert to prediabetes. This is not true in children! Type 2 diabetes progresses so quickly in children, many of them are put on insulin within two years.
Prediabetes in adults can last ten years or more. In children, prediabetes progresses into type 2 within 12 months. Plus, by the time they are diagnosed with type 2, their beta cells are already dying off. Type 2 in children, the beta cells can die up to 37% per year. This cannot be reversed with current medications. Hospitals can test to determine if the child has type 1 or type 2. But many of them need insulin as soon as they are diagnosed.
Puberty causes many changes
Weight problems accelerate during puberty. Children who may be above normal weight before puberty can quickly change during puberty due to human growth hormone. Their body grows and develops quickly during this time. Parents should monitor their child’s BMI (Body Mass Index) during this phase. (Note: I recommend parents use the CDC charts for BMI including waist circumference for a more accurate evaluation.) https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/childrens_bmi/about_childrens_bmi.html
If you see significant changes in their BMI, talk to your child about what they are doing.
- Have they increased junk foods?
- Are they eating out more?
- Are they playing more computer games?
- How has their daily life changed?
Daily choices now will affect their future
Encourage them to be mindful of how their daily choices are affecting their future.
Healthy living today will be the key to minimizing future health problems. Children’s weight over the 85th percentile can cause problems like high blood pressure, which over time triggers other problems like heart disease and strokes. (Narasimhan, 2015)
Severely obese children (the 95th percentile or more for weight) are at risk for serious health conditions like fatty liver disease. Fatty liver disease in children is linked to early-onset type 2 diabetes and multiple complications from insulin resistance. (Narasimhan, 2015)
It’s sad but true: research proves that if the parent waits until the child is diagnosed, the damage is already done. Please don’t wait!
For more information about how weight gain can affect your child’s overall health, check out this article I recently published.
For more information on healthy lifestyle habits in children, part 2 in this series talks about lifestyle changes!
For information about my program Kids at Risk for Diabetes, please check out my course for the whole family.
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Narasimhan, S. a. (2015, Jun 1). HS Public Access. Retrieved from Youth-Onset Type 2 Diabetes: Lessons Learned from the Today Study: https://www.ncbi.nim.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4319667/