Karlton Hill was only 12 years old when when he found out he had diabetes. Even though he was only in seventh grade, Karlton knew what diabetes was; he had watched the disease destroy his great-grandmother’s life.
“I was really upset. I cried,” he says. “I didn’t want any of this to happen to me. I was like, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ ”
Public health experts have been worrying for years that the obesity epidemic would lead to an epidemic of Type 2 diabetes among kids.
Now, for the first time, researchers have direct evidence that those fears are coming true — that Karlton Hill is far from alone. Researchers analyzed data from 3,383 youths ages 12 to 19 who participated in a federal survey and found that the proportion of those with diabetes or “prediabetes” increased from 9 percent in 1999 to 23 percent in 2008, according to a paper published in the journal Pediatrics.
“It’s concerning,” says Ashleigh L. May of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, who led the study.
Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, is a condition that until recently doctors almost never saw in kids. But that was before the childhood obesity epidemic.
“That’s a shockingly high figure that has dire implications to the health of this entire generation of children. This report really sounds the alarm,” says David S. Ludwig, a childhood obesity expert at Children’s Hospital in Boston.
Diabetes can cause all sorts of other problems, including blindness, nerve damage, heart attacks and strokes.
“It’s one thing for an overweight or obese 55-year-old gaining an extra few pounds a year to develop diabetes at age 65 and then have a heart attack. It’s a very different thing if the clock starts ticking at age 10,” Ludwig says. “Children have so many more years to suffer from the consequences from these serious medical problems related to obesity. (cont … WBUR Boston NPR News Source)