Children and Diabetes

Children, like adults, are often diagnosed with diabetes. Most children have type 1 or juvenile diabetes that will require insulin on a regular basis to sustain proper body functions. There are growing numbers of children that are now being diagnoses with type 2 diabetes that has historically only been found in adult populations.

Some facts about children and diabetes highlight the importance of understanding this disease and finding ways to manage and control it effectively:

* One in every 400-500 children in the world has diabetes.

* Approximately 150,000 children in the United States under the age of 18 have diabetes.

* Type 1 or juvenile diabetes occurs when the immune system begins to generate cells that destroy the pancreatic cells responsible for producing insulin in the body. If the child does not receive insulin every day the child will die.

* 13,000 children are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes every year. These children are at a greater risk for heart attack, stroke, kidney disease and immune complications throughout their lives.

* Type 2 or adult injury diagnosis is becoming more prevalent in children. This is a condition where the body is unable to utilize the insulin produced because it has built up a resistance to the insulin. Over time the pancreas is unable to produce sufficient quantities of insulin, and complications arise.

* Type 2 diabetes is more closely linked to obesity, especially if there is a history of diabetes in the family. It is also more prevalent in African American, Latino, Asian, and American Indian children.

Controlling diabetes in children

Just like adults, children diagnosed with type 2 diabetes will need to closely monitor both their food intake and the amount of exercise that they complete each day. While not required to eliminate all their favorite foods, it is important to teach children concepts of portion control and healthy eating. Often in today's culture there is so much to get done in a day that meals are often skipped or ateen on the run or in the car. Fast foods are not a good substitute for fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and whole grains.

Try to schedule so that your child has time to sit down to a balanced meal as often as possible, ideally three times per day. Try to include whole grains, fiber, lean meats, fish, dairy products and fresh fruits and vegetables. To get children to eat healthy try the following:

* Trail mix including a variety of nuts, dried soy nuts, dried fruits instead of potato chips.

* Granola bars instead of cookies or donuts.

* Whole grain bread instead of white bread.

* Carrot and celery sticks instead of French fries

* Bake foods instead of deep frying

* Salads with meals or as an appetizer before meals

* Raw vegetables or fruits dipped in yogurt

Remember that modeling healthy lifestyles will help your children learn. Exercise together as a family. Go for a bike ride, walk, or go to the park and have fun together. Small changes in lifestyles can lead to big changes in health conditions over time. Start small and work together as a family to reach your diet and exercise goals.