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Obesity, Diabetes Pose 1-2 Threat to Young Americans

December 31, 2011
By

FRIDAY, Dec. 30 (HealthDay News) — Doctors have long been
concerned that increasing rates of childhood obesity could fuel a diabetes
epidemic.

Study results have now underscored that fear.

Researchers have found that the length of time a person carries excess
weight directly contributes to an increased risk for type 2 diabetes.

In other words, because today’s children are expected to receive a
larger lifetime “dose” of obesity, their chances of developing diabetes at
some point in their lives will be greater.

Dr. John E. Anderson, vice president of medicine and science for the
American Diabetes Association, said that the findings reflect what is
already happening in society, with more young children and teenagers
diagnosed with type 2 diabetes than ever before.

“A disease that used to be confined to older people is creeping into
high schools,” Anderson said. “At best, this is alarming. This obesity
epidemic we have is fueling an epidemic of diabetes in young people.”

Obesity among children and adolescents has almost tripled since 1980,
according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Today,
nearly one in five American kids ages 2 to 19 — or about 12.5 million —
are obese.

Obesity has long been linked with the development of type 2 diabetes,
which occurs when the body gradually loses its ability to properly use
insulin to convert blood sugar into fuel, a condition known as insulin
resistance.

“Extra weight gets in the way of the ability of tissues to absorb
insulin and use it to convert glucose,” Anderson said. “The more obese you
are, the more insulin resistant you can become.”

But researchers now are finding that the time spent carrying extra
weight matters as much as the amount of extra weight itself.

A research team at the University of Michigan that studied the health
records of about 8,000 teens and young adults found that those with a body
mass index (BMI) indicating overweight or obesity for a greater length of
time had a higher risk for diabetes.

For example, the researchers found that a person who carried a BMI of
35 for 10 years — a BMI of 30 or above is considered obese — could be
considered to have the equivalent of 100 years of excess BMI.

The findings, published in the Archives of Pediatrics
Adolescent Medicine
, jibe with projections that show diabetes rates
exploding as more people spend more of their lives either overweight or
obese.

“If you’re born in the year 2000 and the current trends continue
unchecked, you will have a one in three chance of developing type 2
diabetes,” Anderson said. That risk increases for certain ethnic
minorities, including African Americans, Native Americans and
Hispanics.

Diabetes is a systemic disease, and by its nature can affect almost
every part of a person’s body. Someone with diabetes has a shorter life
expectancy, and on any given day has twice the risk for dying as a person
of similar age without diabetes, according to the CDC.

“We worry this will be the first generation of Americans who don’t live
as long as their parents did,” Anderson said.

What can be done to alter the potentially grim outlook? To start losing
weight, kids need to adopt a set of healthy living skills that become part
of their daily routine, said Sheri Colberg-Ochs, an exercise science
professor at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., who works with the
American Diabetes Association.

“It’s not just the weight, per se,” Colberg-Ochs said. “It’s the
lifestyle they’ve developed that caused them to gain the extra
weight.”

First, kids need to be taught to eat healthy foods and to avoid foods
that are fatty, sugar-packed or heavily processed, she said.

“When food is a lot more refined, it’s lacking in a lot of vitamins and
minerals that are essential to your effective metabolic function,” she
said. “Kids eat empty calories, and those calories go straight to weight
gain.”

But they also need to become more physically active, she said. Exercise
has been shown to both battle obesity and help better control blood
glucose levels in the body.

“Those two things alone would probably solve the problem of childhood
obesity, were society to pursue them vigorously,” Colberg-Ochs said.

More information

The American Diabetes Association has more on living with diabetes.

For more on learning to live with diabetes from a young age, check out
a companion article that details one woman’s story.

Article source: http://news.yahoo.com/obesity-diabetes-pose-1-2-threat-young-americans-140407756.html

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