How can we prevent type 2 diabetes in children?
Type 2 diabetes used to be known as adult-onset diabetes because it tended to occur mainly in people over the age of 40. But as obesity levels around the world continue to soar, so has the number of young adults with the disease. The global prevalence of diabetes among teenagers and young adults (aged 10-24) has risen from an estimated 2.8% in 1990 to 3.2% in 2015.
This may not sound very much, but it is an increase of about 7m young people across the world. An important proportion of this relates to type 1 diabetes – but the increasing prevalence and impact of type 2 diabetes in this age group is a major threat to public health worldwide.
Having type 2 diabetes at a young age has major implications for a person’s future health. If not managed properly, it can lead to blindness, kidney failure or limb amputation, so preventing the disease before it takes hold is critical.
Researchers are scratching their heads trying to find solutions to this problem. While they agree that those at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes should be targeted in public health programmes, what those programmes should entail is not yet clear. Of course, diet and physical activity are important but, among children, research into what works is only just emerging.
Major research funders across the world are engaging with the issue. In the UK a recent overview of research commissioned by the National Institute for Health Research summarises where work is underway and where more needs to be done. In the US, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (part of the National Continue reading