As a parent, you want to protect your child from everything,
which is virtually impossible, of course. But can you prevent your
child from getting diabetes?
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease that affects how the body uses
, the main type of sugar in the blood. Glucose, which comes from
the foods we eat, is the major source of energy needed to fuel the
body's functions. To use glucose, the body needs the hormone
. But if someone has diabetes, the body either can't make
insulin or the insulin doesn't work in the body like it
There are two major types of diabetes:
type 1 diabetes
, a person's
and destroys the cells that make insulin.
type 2 diabetes
, the pancreas can still make insulin, but the body doesn't
respond to it properly. In both types of diabetes, glucose
can't get into the cells normally, so a person's
blood sugar level
gets too high. High blood sugar levels can make people sick if
they don't receive treatment.
Can Type 1 Diabetes Be Prevented?
Type 1 diabetes can't be prevented. Doctors can't even
tell who will get it and who won't.
No one knows for sure what causes type 1 diabetes, but
scientists think it has something to do with genes. But just
getting the genes for diabetes isn't usually enough. In most
cases, a child has to be exposed to something else - like a virus -
for him or her to get type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes isn't contagious, so kids and teens
can't catch it from another person or pass it along to friends
or family members. And eating too much sugar doesn't cause type
1 diabetes, either.
Although type 1 diabetes can't be prevented, some research
, avoiding early introduction of solid foods, and other factors may
play a role in lowering the risk of developing the disease. Though
there's no reliable way to predict who will get type 1
diabetes, blood tests can detect early signs of it. These blood
tests aren't done routinely, however, because doctors don't
have any way to stop a child from developing the disease, even if
the tests are positive.
Can Type 2 Diabetes Be Prevented?
Unlike type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes can sometimes be
prevented. Excessive weight gain,
, and a sedentary lifestyle are all factors that put a person at
risk for type 2 diabetes.
In the past, type 2 diabetes almost exclusively affected adults,
typically those who were overweight. Doctors even referred to type
2 diabetes as adult-onset diabetes. But in recent years, more
children and teens have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes - an
increase that experts say is related to the rapidly growing number
of overweight children and teens.
Although kids and teens may be able to prevent or delay the
onset of type 2 diabetes by managing their weight and physical
activity, other risk factors for type 2 diabetes can't be
changed. Children who have one or more family members with type 2
diabetes have an increased risk of developing the disease. Also,
certain ethnic and racial groups tend to be more prone to
developing type 2 diabetes, including people of Native American,
African American, Hispanic/Latino, or Asian/Pacific Island
Taking Steps to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Here are a few simple strategies to reduce your child's risk
for developing type 2 diabetes and other associated health
Make sure your child eats a healthy diet.
Encouraging your child to eat
low-fat, nutrient-rich foods
- like whole-grain cereals and breads, fruits, vegetables, dairy
products, and lean proteins - can help prevent excessive weight
gain, one major risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
Limit your child's intake of sugary foods and
Consuming lots of sugar-filled foods and beverages - like sodas,
juices, and iced teas - can also lead to excessive weight
Encourage your child to increase physical
and decreasing the amount of time spent in sedentary activities -
like watching TV or playing video or computer games - can also
reduce the risk of weight gain and help prevent the onset of type
2 diabetes. Being active can be as simple as walking the dog or
mowing the lawn. Try to do something that gets you and your child
moving every day.
If you think your child may be overweight and, therefore, at
increased risk of type 2 diabetes, talk to your child's doctor
or a registered dietitian. These health care professionals can help
you determine what your child's weight goals should be and how
to reach them. It's important for growing kids to get enough
calories and nutrients for normal growth and development, while
preventing the excessive weight gain that can set the stage for
type 2 diabetes and other health problems.
Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: September 2007
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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