Unfortunately, there has been an increase in the number of children who are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes in children and adults is pretty similar. The hallmark is insulin resistance, with a decrease in insulin production in the body. But you also have a different process that is going on in the body at this time, which is puberty.
Around the age of 10 years, children have a “physiologic” insulin resistance. So obesity combined with the fact that the body naturally is physiologically less sensitive to insulin at the start of puberty is a setup for worsening insulin resistance.
Around the age of 14-19 years, you see an increase in growth hormone that will lead to insulin resistance as well. All of those factors aligning is the reason why children have a greater chance, especially if they are obese, to have type 2 diabetes.
Who are at risk?
The criteria that should trigger screening include a high body mass index, a first-generation family member that has the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, and the presence of hypertension, now more prevalent in these overweight or obese adolescents and younger children. The other risk factor that you want to look for is a history gestational diabetes during the mother’s pregnancy.
A family-based lifestyle intervention is the mainstay of treatment in type 2 diabetes in adolescents.