On World Diabetes Day, health experts give tips on how to prevent obesity, a major factor contributing to diabetes among adolescents.
New Delhi: Obesity and sedentary lifestyle are two major factors contributing to the alarming rise of diabetes among teenagers, doctors say.
On World Diabetes Day Wednesday, doctors have stressed the importance of daily physical activity and healthy diet to remain healthy and fit.
While diabetes mellitus (Type I) may get genetically passed on to younger generations in families, the Type-II diabetes — once called the adult-onset-diabetes — is now prevalent among teenagers as well.
“Type II form of diabetes is prominent in adolescents now, mainly 15 plus age group. It means, adolescents will have to live a longer part of their lives with diabetes,” Dr Nikhil Tandon, professor at department of endocrinology and metabolism at AIIMS, told ThePrint.
“While diabetes is linked with parents who have a history of this disease, it is largely driven by obesity and sedentary lifestyle among children,” Tandon added.
According to a study published on the ‘WHO South-East Asia Journal of Public Health’, Indian children are “increasingly susceptible to a high percentage of body fat and abdominal adiposity. Further, they are exposed to an obesogenic environment, created by rapid urbanisation and nutrition transition in India”.
“Obese children have a higher risk of developing abnormalities that are recognised as precursors to diabetes, such as subclinical inflammation, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome,” the study says.
Another study shows that nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of the 1,078 patients who underwent bariatric surgery at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital between 2010 and 2018 were reportedly obese right from childhood.
According to experts, the prevention has to be holistic, which means an overall environmental change and social support for growing children.
Tandon said, schools can play an important part in creating awareness and changing habits.
“Not just individual lifestyle, but the overall environment needs to be changed,” he said.
“Schools are an important place to start with… half of them do not have playgrounds and some have but no games period,” he claimed.
Tandon also warned that spending more time with gadgets such as smartphones and computers and neglecting physical activity could make one susceptible to lifestyle diseases like diabetes.
The vulnerable section
Among the adolescents, the doctor says children studying in affluent schools are more susceptible to obesity. “India is witnessing an increase in the burden of childhood obesity, especially among the upper socioeconomic strata and in urban areas,” Tandon said.
“In comparison, the students in government schools do not gain as much weight even when we know the problems are of different nature in these children,” he added.
Dr S. K. Wangnoo, senior endocrinologist at Apollo Hospital, said diabetes can be managed by adopting good habits. “A healthy body mass index (BMI) may prove helpful to control blood sugars. One way to do this is to limit the amount of carbohydrates and have a diet of high-fibre, low carbs as well as proteins such as green vegetables, fruit, beans, and whole grains,” he said.
Checking blood-sugar levels regularly is also necessary.
One lesser-known aspect of diabetes is that it can also affect newborns. In Apollo Hospital, Delhi, a case of ‘neonatal diabetes’ (before the age of six months) was found in a two-months-old baby.
“At Apollo Sugar Clinic, a reference was made from the pediatric ward about high blood sugars in a two months old baby. The child was evaluated thoroughly for any unknown factors responsible for high sugars,” said Dr Wangnoo.
Doctors found no family history of diabetes in the baby.
“The baby was put on insulin infusion for control of sugars and stabilised,” added Wangnoo.
The parents were later counselled regarding the nature of the disease and the need for a long-term follow-up.