Type 2 diabetes was commonly referred to as adult-onset diabetes, but due to the increasing rates of childhood obesity, we are seeing more children being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. In most children, this type of diabetes is preventable through diet, exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight.
Causes of Type 2 Diabetes
While there is no direct cause of this type of diabetes in children, there are risk factors that may increase the odds of developing it, including:
- Being overweight or obese – Learn more about child obesity.
- Lack of physical activity – it is recommended that children get 60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity each day.
- Immediate family history of type 2 diabetes
- Race or ethnicity - it's unclear why, but certain people — including Black, Hispanic, American Indian, and Asian American people — are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
- When the mother experienced gestational diabetes while pregnant with their child
- Low birth weight
- Born premature
- Age and sex – adolescent girls are more likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Low levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL), the "good" cholesterol
- High triglycerides
- High blood sugar levels
- Large waist size
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Increased hunger
- Blurry vision
- Darkened areas of skin, most often around the neck or in the armpits and groin
- Unintended weight loss
- Frequent infections
Preventing Type Diabetes 2 in Children
As mentioned above, in most cases, type 2 diabetes is preventable in children. Here are some tips that may prevent type 2 diabetes, but additionally help keep your child healthy:
- Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables
- Limit processed foods – avoid premade boxed dinners, cookies, and fruit snacks, for example
- Watch added sugar – aim for no more than 25 grams of added sugar daily
- Add healthy fats – such as nuts, seeds, and olive oil
- Add more leafy greens – if your child won’t eat them, find tips for sneaking them into their diet here
- Limit their screen time
- Develop a no-device policy while eating, including phones, television, computers, etc.
- Make movement part of their daily routine – enroll them in a sport, take bike rides as a family, make a walk after dinner part of your entire family’s routine, etc.
- Have healthy snacks on hand that they can grab and go
- Ensure they are getting enough sleep
- Help them learn to know when they are full
- Be sure they are drinking enough water every day
- Set a good example – show them how to live a healthy lifestyle by example
Talk to Your Doctor
If you are concerned that your child may be experiencing symptoms of type 2 diabetes, you should schedule an appointment as soon as possible. Routine well visits are a great time to discuss ways to help prevent type 2 diabetes for kids at higher risk.