Guest article by Sam Hadadi,
With endless fizzy drinks, sweets and sugar-laden snack bars on the table, it’s little wonder that the health of the nation’s children is starting to suffer.
Yet expanding waistlines and a lack of exercise aren’t the only problems triggered by childhood obesity. Officials have just revealed that the number of kids developing type 2 diabetes are beginning to soar.
Stats released by the Local Government Association (LGA) show that 533 children in the UK have now developed type 2 diabetes. Yet, children as young as five have been found to develop the disease, with experts believing that the problem will continue to grow and grow unless serious action is taken.
Homemade courgette lasagne
Experts hope that the stats will act as a “wake-up” call to parents and politicians alike - especially when you consider that nearly all (95 per cent) of those children diagnosed with type 2 diabetes were overweight.
Justin Warner, who led the research, said: “With a third of ten-year-olds either overweight or obese in the UK, it has become increasingly common to see children and young people developing type 2 diabetes. The government must act now before this becomes the norm.”
Since the latest news, the LGA has called on the government to take drastic action and has even suggested that local councils be given permission to ban junk food advertising near schools.
The government is slowly starting to sit up and take notice to the country’s mounting health concerns and recently pledged a tax on sugary drinks. Politicians are also considering clamping down on junk food advertising, while there are plans to force companies to make products healthier.
However, the worries still lie in the here and now. Councillor Izzi Seccombe, the LGA community wellbeing spokeswoman, said that these stats are further proof of the devastating toll of childhood obesity.
She added: “Type 2 diabetes is normally associated with adults, so it is a major concern that we are seeing this in children and teenagers.
“Obesity is usually linked with major health conditions later on in life but already, we are seeing the early consequences of child obesity, with more and more children developing type 2 diabetes as a result.
“This is a wake-up call for the nation as the Government faces a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take radical game-changing action in its forthcoming childhood obesity strategy. We cannot afford to delay any longer.”
With this news, it’s easy to get caught up in stats. Yet, what’s the reality? Are our children really at risk?
Sadly, with growing numbers of junk food lining our supermarket shelves and – all too often, at least – a lack of education about food, the reality of childhood obesity is growing more and more by the day.
Perhaps even more shocking is the fact that a fifth of children in the UK are overweight or obese by the time they start primary school - and more than one in three are by the time they leave. What’s more, experts reckon that the number of under-fives who are overweight will rise from 41 million to 70 million worldwide by 2025.
If that doesn’t shock us into action, then just what will it take?
Most children with diabetes suffer from type 1, where the body's immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin. Just 2 per cent of childhood cases of diabetes are type 2, which is mostly preventable.
Type 2 diabetes is caused by the body struggling to produce enough insulin to function properly. As a result, the body becomes overwhelmed with too much glucose in the blood, which then can’t be converted into energy.
The problem is that the disease can lead to serious conditions, including vision loss and blindness.
Unlike type 1 diabetes, type 2 may be prevented and the biggest risk factor for developing the disease is being overweight, as well as eating a poor diet and not exercising enough. However, lifestyle changes can help to keep type 2 diabetes at bay, or lessen the symptoms if you already have it. These changes include eating a healthy and balanced diet, shaping up and exercising.
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes include overwhelming tiredness, feeling thirstier than usual and needing to pee often, especially at night. If you think you or your child is at risk from diabetes, then pop in for a chat with your GP and check out the NHS’s advice by clicking here.
Fellow parents will always be looking to help their kids thrive by making sure that they’re as healthy as can be. Not only can keeping little ones healthy help their body but it can also boost their mind, too! If you want to do some more reading about how to help tots and kids get healthy, then we have plenty of tips on our site - have a browse through some of our articles to get advice on how to get fussy children eating well1 (believe us, we’ve been there!), the importance of sleep2 and why we need to get our kids drinking water3.
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Sam Hadadi is an ex-BBC journalist and now a freelance writer specialising in fitness and food.