Diabetes UK has found a record number of young people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes—the chronic condition linked to obesity that can lead to life-threatening health complications.
Historically virtually unknown in children, diabetes is much more aggressive in young people and can cause complications such as amputations, blindness, heart disease and kidney failure to occur prematurely.
The charity combined the number of children seen by hospital specialists with the young people who are looked after by their GP. Its analysis of 2016-17 data found that most were being treated in GP practices. Only 715 were receiving care from hospital units.
The research revealed that 6,836 children and young adults have the condition, with the charity warning that thousands more could be diagnosed over the coming years.
The worrying figures include:
- 11 five to nine-year-olds
- 196 10 to 14-year-olds
- 1,246 15 to 19-year-olds
- 5,383 20 to 24 year-olds
Type 2 diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes the level of sugar in the blood to become too high. It is caused by problems with a hormone in the body known as insulin.
Diabetes UK said that the main driver behind these figures was the rise in obesity. While other factors such as family history and ethnic background could also play a part, obesity is fast becoming a national epidemic.
The latest figures on childhood obesity have shown that more than a third of children in England will be overweight by the time they leave primary school.
Bridget Turner, director of policy and campaigns at Diabetes UK, said: ‘Type 2 diabetes can be devastating for children and young people.
‘We need to encourage healthy living by providing clear and easy to understand nutritional information about the products we are all buying, and protect children from adverts for foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar.’
The charity have emphasised the need for young people with Type 2 diabetes to have access to expert treatments from healthcare professionals.
Prof Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, also felt these new figures indicate the need to act.
‘For many children, the development of Type 2 diabetes can be prevented with lifestyle changes, but this isn’t easy—they need support.
‘That’s why we were pleased to see the ambitious proposals set out in chapter two of its Childhood Obesity Plan. We urge the government to maximise their impact by introducing them all and doing so quickly,’ he said.
‘What they highlight is the need for urgent action from government to help children and young people lead healthier lives,’ added Caroline Cerny, lead for Obesity Health Alliance.
‘That’s why we want to see restrictions on junk food marketing before the nine pm watershed on TV, with similar restrictions applied online, action on the promotion of unhealthy products in shops, and industry going further to reduce sugar and calories from processed foods—all measures which can help families make healthy choices and prevent young people from developing potentially devastating diseases.’
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