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Don’t Let Your Child Become a Statistic: Beat the Diabetic Epidemic

Posted May 28 2010 3:00am
By Ian Robinson 05/28/2010

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For the first time since modern medicine came into play, the next generation of children may not live as long as their parents.

Adult-only ailments like obesity and diabetes are now our children’s problem. Thirty years ago, type 2 diabetes was an old man’s problem. No longer: kids who aren’t even in their teens are being diagnosed with it. And in frightening numbers. The incidence of children taking meds for type 2 diabetes has increased 150 percent in just 10 years. That’s a shocking statistic and one that could impact your family today. That’s because a major contributor to that statistic is in almost everything your child eats. And it’s not something you’re likely to be aware of.

What is causing this epidemic? How is it happening? And who is destroying your child’s health? We have all those answers for you. But even more importantly, we’ll tell you how to help your child beat the diabetic epidemic.

The Diabetes-Obesity Link

There’s a much-documented link between obesity and diabetes. Overweight children – who used to be few and far between – are now everywhere.

And while we’re no longer surprised by that, you will be surprised by what is making an entire generation of kids so fat.

If the words “junk food” just popped into your head, you’re only partly right.

How did we become a nation gorging ourselves on processed foods?

Well, you can thank the government for that.

The High-Fructose Life

How can manufactured, processed foods – with all it takes to produce them – possibly be cheaper and more available than fresh fruits and vegetables?

A little piece of legislation called the farm bill basically presides over the American food system. It determines which crops will be subsidized and supports farmers who grow them. The more they grow, the more they get paid.

The result is massive production of corn and soy. We now have a food system floating in high fructose corn syrup and fats derived from soy. And Americans and their kids are packing on the pounds.

At the same time, there is little subsidy for fresh produce. The price of fruit and vegetables rose 40 percent between 1985 and 2000. Meanwhile, the cost of soft drinks (liquid corn) dropped 23 percent.

All this overproduction and availability of cheap food means that kids think it is normal to eat a highly processed diet. For many of them, it’s all they’ve ever seen.

No wonder childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years.

And now the impact is starting to be felt.

Kids are getting what used to be “grown-up” diseases. We may even have to eliminate the term “adult-onset” diabetes since roughly 40,000 U.S. adolescents have it. And another 2.5 million may have insulin resistance that will progress into type 2 diabetes.

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Lots of Food and No Nutrition

In the 1950s, kids drank three cups of milk for every cup of soda. Now it’s pretty much the opposite. That means an overload of calories and no nutrients.

Children aren’t in control of their diet in their formative years. If the school lunch consists of chicken nuggets and tater tots, that’s what they eat. If working parents bring home take-out pizza for supper because they’re pressed for time, that’s the family meal.

What kid is going to stand at the open fridge door and say, “Hey, Mom, we’re out of broccoli!”?

The problem is worse for those with the least amount of money to spend on food. Sad to say, the most reliable predictor of obesity in America is wealth. The cheapest foods in the market are not only the least healthful, they’re the most filling and fattening.

Obesity researcher Adam Drewnowski went shopping to see for himself. He found that a dollar could buy 1,200 calories of potato chips or cookies… or 250 calories of carrots. In the drink aisle his dollar would buy 875 calories of soda… or 170 calories of orange juice.

Now the point is not really the calories in these foods. That’s just a method of comparing the amounts you can buy.

Rather, the nutrition you get is the difference. The starch and sugar overload of the processed foods is the culprit behind the increasing rates of obesity and diabetes.

That’s why kids are developing type 2 diabetes at a younger and younger age.

Life Expectancy Going Backwards

It’s alarming to anticipate a diabetes epidemic among young people because it is already the number six killer of Americans. For the first time since modern medicine came into play, a generation may not live as long as their parents.

According to weight-control specialist Dr. Howard Shapiro, kids as young as 12 are getting type 2 diabetes. That means these kids are going to start seeing diabetic complications much, much sooner in life.

In the past, this type of diabetes didn’t develop until after age 40 or so. Long term complications like heart disease, kidney failure, and blindness previously affected diabetic adults in their 60s.

Now doctors are seeing 20- and 25-year-olds on dialysis for kidney failure.

As noted earlier, the number of children on medication for type 2 diabetes has increased 150 percent since 2001. That’s huge. Imagine the projected health care costs of children who are already taking adult drugs.

Not to mention the consequences of debilitating health for a lifetime. It’s one thing to suffer declining health later in life. It’s another entirely to have an illness from childhood forward.

No Easy Solution

As the rising prescription drug use in children illustrates, there is not going to be a fast or easy way out of this situation. Many children are completely mired down in the standard American diet.

The high fat and sugar processed foods have imprinted their taste buds. Their impaired glucose levels make them crave even more of the foods that are causing the problem.

Plenty of families consider a diet of processed food completely normal and don’t appreciate the impact it is having on their health.

But if you’re reading this newsletter, that is not likely to be you.

So if you and your family have being eating more processed food than you’d like to admit, get an action plan in place. Here are a few things you can do…

  • Work more fresh fruits and vegetables into your family meals. Kids can only acquire a taste for them if they have them regularly.

  • Eliminate soda and other drinks sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup.

  • Limit the kids’ TV and computer time.

  • Encourage kids to get moving. Organized sports are not the only option. Riding bikes and playing ball in the neighborhood work, too.

  • Do active things as a family. Walk the dog or go for a game of mini-golf.

  • Be aware of your family history of diabetes.  If a close relative has type 2 diabetes, the risk of other family members is increased.

Keep in mind that excess weight is a primary risk factor for diabetes and it can take a long time – up to 10 years – before type 2 diabetes fully shows up. This is a long window of time when damage can be prevented and even reversed.

Type 2 diabetes is not inevitable. A healthy, high-quality diet can prevent it or turn it around. In that sense, good food is not expensive. Illness is.

One of the best things you can do for your children and grandchildren is to teach them to eat well. Protect them from the super-size epidemic that is ruining the health of so many kids. They’ll thank you later when they pass good nutritional habits on to their own children.

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