Too fat for their own good

Beyond diabetes, obesity in children leads to the onset of a host of other adult plagues: cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems — all in children, while they are children! And I haven't even gotten to what will happen to them when they grow up. Beyond the obvious health challenges that overweight adults face, an unholy cluster of 13 cancers are associated with childhood obesity.

Who and how many?

Here's what we know: again, type 2 in kids most commonly strikes between 10-19 years of age. The numbers below ten-years-old are small, but you can count them. They exist.

African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than white kids. But while Caucasian kids are less common for their numbers in society, don't think they're absent from roll call. Far from it. A good 20% of kids with type 2 are Caucasian.

The official diagnosis count for type 2 kids places the numbers around 3,600 new cases a year. The problem is that no one is looking for the problem. Generally speaking, type 1 kids are diagnosed when they go into a coma. Generally speaking, type 2 kids, like type 2 adults, don't go into comas. There's no crisis leading to diagnosis. It's a slowly boiling pot and no one has turned on the cafeteria light.

Two new words you'll wish you never learned

As it's back-to-school time, you have to learn something new, too. Here are two new vocabulary expanders for your next game of Scrabble: cytotoxic and predecease.

Cytotoxic first. Cyto- comes to us from the Greek kytos, meaning "container." It's used in medicine (along with -cyte) to denote a cell. Toxic comes to us from the Latin word toxicum, meaning "poison." Interestingly, digging further into the origins of the word, the Latin likely comes from the Greek toxikn phrmakon, the poison used specifically on poison arrows for combat. Toxic is now used in medicine to mean anything that is bad for living things. So cytotoxic means lethal to cells.

How on earth does this vocabulary lesson play into kids with type 2 diabetes? Well, it turns out that when type 2 is in kids, it's extraordinarily difficult to control. No one knows why. One theory is that the puberty hormones in this age set serve as a diabetes accelerant — like throwing gasoline on a fire. The bottom line? The typical A1C, the measure of blood sugar for the previous three months, in a kid with type 2 is between 10-12%. Any blood sugar north of 9% is cytotoxic to the kidneys. Or, as one dialysis nurse I know likes to say, A1Cs greater than 9% are "incompatible with human life."

And this is in kids. They can't vote yet and kidney damage is starting. What do you think their long-term outcomes will look like?

That brings me to the second word. Predecease. You know what that means. It means to die before. Many scientists believe that children with type 2 diabetes will predecease — they will die before.

Before what? Before their time?

No. Before their parents.

Wil Dubois is the author of four multi-award-winning books about diabetes. He is a PWD type 1, and is the diabetes coordinator for a rural non-profit clinic. Visit his blog, LifeAfterDX.

Read Wil's bio here.

Read more of Wil Dubois' columns.

NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.

 

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Last Modified Date: May 17, 2013

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