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Your chubby one may not be in the best of health

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Watch out: Having junk food as a staple is taking the fast lane to diabetes.
Watch out: Having junk food as a staple is taking the fast lane to diabetes.

Afshan Yasmeen

Childhood obesity is a ticking time bomb, doctors say

Bangalore: Exercise and healthy eating in children are more important than you think.

Shalini and Prakash Roonwal, parents of Kunal, a fifth standard student of a noted school in Rajajinagar, were forced to change their child’s school this year.

Surprised and shocked over the medical diagnosis that their child had Type 2 diabetes, the couple literally hunted for a school that has a spacious playground.

With most schools now paying less attention to sports than they used to, children hardly have any physical activity at school. They are so tied up with other activities at home that they have very little time for play.

As a result, many children and adolescents get affected with the Type 2 form of the disease, which is strongly linked to obesity and lack of exercise.

Difficult to detect

According to S.S. Srikanta, diabetologist and Medical Director of Samatvam Endocrinology Diabetes Centre, it is difficult to detect Type 2 diabetes among children because there are usually no symptoms or very mild ones that often result in under diagnosis.

In India, Type 2 Diabetes (in which the patient does not require to take insulin) is the most common form with 90 to 95 per cent of diabetics suffering from it.

It occurs primarily in adults, but is now also affecting children and young adults.

Type 1 Diabetes (in which the patient is insulin-dependant) affects predominately children and youth, and is the less common form of diabetes accounting for the remaining 5 to 10 per cent.

With one in 300 children affected with this silent but serious disease, the United Nations has declared 2008 as the Year of Diabetes among Children and Adolescents.

In youngsters too

“As the obesity rate among children continues to grow, lakhs of young people under the age of 20 have diabetes. I am treating babies in the age group of one month to 11 months. Now diabetes is not a disease that is usually found in adults over the age of 40. It is indeed becoming more common among youngsters,” Dr. Srikanta said.

Junk food

Obesity is directly related to the heavy consumption of unhealthy food along with meals taken at irregular intervals. Junk food and a bottle of a fizzy drink is what most youngsters have as a meal every day.

This not only makes them obese but also leads to a variety of problems like psycho-social disturbances, hypertension and respiratory dysfunction. Having meals at regular times coupled with an active lifestyle can help prevent or reduce diabetes, said Chandrakanth Mahale, a child specialist from Bangalore.

“Some teenagers suffering from obesity tend to starve themselves thinking of their poor body image. They cannot afford to starve and it is very important for them to have a balanced diet,” he said.

Prevention

Studies and surveys show that anyone at a high risk of getting diabetes can prevent and even delay its onset.

Though ethnicity, gender and family history are some of the factors that cannot be altered, one can overcome the consequences by regulating their eating habits and physical activity.

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