Even though a problem can surround us, often it takes a shocking story for it to truly sink in. So perhaps this one will help inform the public of just how bad the global obesity epidemic is getting, if the obvious expanding waistlines and endless documentaries weren’t enough. This is the unfortunate tale of Type 2 diabetes in the youngest known case, a 3-year-old girl.
Type 2 diabetes is strongly associated with obesity, with about 90% of those with the condition being classed as overweight or obese. And this child was no exception. The Hispanic child was brought to the University of Texas Health Science Center for an evaluation by specialist Dr. Michael Yafi. She presented with classic symptoms of diabetes: excessive thirst and increased urination.
Upon examination, the child weighed 35 kilograms (77 pounds) and her Body Mass Index was in the top 5% of children her age. After quizzing the parents – both obese but without diabetes – on their lifestyles, poor eating habits were quickly revealed. Perhaps unsurprisingly, their diets contained way too many calories and excessive amounts of fat.
The child was given further tests to work out if her obesity might have some underlying cause other than a poor diet and lack of activity, but they couldn’t find anything. Furthermore, she didn’t have any antibodies in her blood that could indicate Type 1 diabetes. After ruling out these possibilities, the child was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
She was sent home with diabetes medication and her parents were taught about nutrition and advised on the importance of physical activity. After six months of increased exercise and calorie-controlled meals, the child’s blood glucose levels went back to normal and she lost almost 9 kilograms (20 pounds). Thanks to these interventions, her diabetes reversed and she no longer needs the medication.
Needless to say, better education about diet and exercise is clearly necessary, and doctors may not wish to snappily write off the possibility of such a diagnosis in young children.