Childhood obesity has risen significantly in the United States over the past two decades. Approximately 17% of youth in the United States are obese, and nearly one in three children and adolescents are either overweight or obese. There are many factors that contribute to the increase of childhood obesity, such as consuming foods that lack essential nutrients and living a sedentary lifestyle. Genetics also may factor into the risk of obesity although does not mean a child will become obese. Children who have the aforementioned risk factors and are currently obese may develop medical problems that continue into adulthood, such as type 2 diabetes.
Overweight children are more likely to have insulin resistance, which is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Insulin allows glucose, a form of sugar that provides energy, to enter the body’s cells. If there is not enough insulin to allow glucose into the cells, it starts to build in the blood and can damage the body and cause further complications. Therefore, sugar intake needs monitored and controlled through lifestyle changes, such as prioritizing a healthy diet and exercise each day.
Children with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes may have increased thirst and hunger, frequent urination and infections, fatigue, or blurry or loss of vision; therefore, it is important for all children, especially those who are overweight, to visit their doctor yearly and monitor for any symptoms. However, family greatly influences a child’s meal and exercise options, and parents can ensure that their children are eating healthy and exercising appropriately.
To greatly reduce the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes, children should:
Childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes are becoming increasingly common in the 21st century due to many factors that increase convenience and save time but decrease overall health and well-being. Lifestyle choices can slow or stop the progression of type 2 diabetes if a child is overweight and can also prevent obesity altogether. Ensuring that children are eating healthy and exercising can be a difficult task for parents due to work, school, and other daily priorities; however, as children grow, it is important to find time in the family’s daily schedule to also prioritize their health. For any questions regarding obesity or if you believe your child may be at risk for type 2 diabetes, please contact a primary care physician.


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