Mainly caused by certain abnormalities that lead to the development of resistance against the effects of insulin, Type II diabetes is surprisingly very prevalent among children. Even though, it was predominantly termed as adult-onset diabetes, it is no longer considered an accurate terminology since, Type 2 diabetes is not limited to adults alone.
Ample of evidence has accumulated over the past few decades, suggesting a statistical increase in the prevalence of Type II diabetes in children and adolescents in the U.S. The youngest patient suffering from Type 2 diabetes is a 4-year old Indian Pima child. Read on to find out the possible causes of this debilitating condition in kids and teens.
Top 9 Causes of Type 2 Diabetes In Children
Type 2 diabetes is most often associated with a strong genetic predisposition in children. The closer the relative, the more are the chances of a child developing Type 2 diabetes. It has been estimated that 45% to 80% of children suffering from Type 2 diabetes have at least one parent suffering from diabetes.
Moreover, the genetics involved in the metabolism of glucose by insulin is quite complex and is not clearly defined, making the tendency to acquire diabetes from parents or siblings a difficult mechanism to study.
Diminished Tissue Response to Insulin
The first stage of type 2 diabetes encompasses deficient insulin action on target tissues that stems from the fact that cells do not respond to insulin any longer. This resistance developed against insulin prevents glucose or sugar from entering cells that is used as a primary source of energy. Insulin resistance is a common feature observed in muscles, which is the primary site for the conversion of sugar to energy. Hence, the building up of the levels of glucose in the bloodstream serves as an important factor for causing Type 2 diabetes.
Insulin Secretary Failure
With increase in the resistance produced against insulin, the beta cells of the pancreas constantly attempts at producing more amounts of insulin, in order to reduce the levels of glucose levelsin the bloodstream. But the insulin secreted remains insufficient to compensate to combat insulin resistance that the cells develop.
Eventually, when the increasing demands of insulin cannot be met by the beta cells, the pancreas shuts down the production of insulin completely. This insulin secretary defect and impaired insulin action leads to hyperglycemia, a condition caused by elevated levels of sugar in the blood.
Defects in the Metabolism of Fats, Carbohydrates and Protein
The emergence of Type 2 diabetes in children has also been associated with the reduction of beta oxidation of fat and catabolism of carbohydrates in the body. Imbalances in glucose and protein homeostasis lead to the accumulation of sugar in the body thus, demanding an increase of insulin secretion by the pancreas.
Also, liver diseases in children can lead to an impaired lipid metabolism that in turn leads to excess fat, which promotes insulin resistance. The fat that accumulates around the abdomen called as active fat exposes children to a higher risk of acquiring type II diabetes than the fat found elsewhere on the body. This occurs due to the chemicals produced by active fat, which hinders metabolic pathways in the body, thereby leading to a defect in the pathway that converts sugars to energy packets called ATP, the primary energy suppliers of the cells in the body.
Increase in Obesity
Reduced fat oxidation in overweight children leads to the accumulation of excess fat in the body. The more the fatty tissues, the more is its interference in hindering the ability of the cells to respond to insulin. This doubles the chances of developing Type 2 diabetes in children who are obese.
In fact, obesity is a very common finding in children suffering from Type 2 diabetes. It is known to cause some degree of insulin resistance, thus giving an alternate term called “obesity-related” diabetes to type 2 diabetes. Unhealthy eating habits involving too much of junk food and carbonated drinks leads to uneven distribution of fat and accumulation of excess fat in the body, which serves as a major risk factor of Type 2 diabetes and its related complications.
Lack of Physical Activity
In today’s world, indoor games and video games is gradually promoting a sedentary lifestyle among children. Physical activity involving exercises and participation in sports mimics the activity of insulin by promoting the entry of glucose into the cells. This conversion of glucose into energy by the cells not only reduces the burden on the pancreas for the production of insulin but also makes the cells far more responsive to insulin. Hence, the degree of inactivity in children is directly related to a greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Most of the studies conducted in children indicate a higher prevalence of Type 2 diabetes in girls than in boys. This is because girls are subjected to more insulin secretary abnormalities than boys, due to the rapid hormonal changes that they undergo during their childhood and adolescent age.
The age of puberty has been reported to be the peak age of diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes in children, which ranges from 12 to16 years. The increase in insulin resistance occurs due to a sudden rise in the hormones during this stage of rapid growth and development, making children more prone to hyperinsulinemia.
Specific Ethnic Groups
Children belonging to certain races like Native Americans, Pacific islanders, Indians, African-Caribbean, Asians, Blacks and Hispanics or Latinos have an increased likelihood of acquiring Type 2 diabetes. Epidemiological studies have reported that Type 2 diabetes is about six times more prevalent in South Asian communities and three times more prevalent among people of African and African-Caribbean origin than in the general UK population.
Genetic determinants play a major role in mediating these differences in the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes in various racial groups. Also, environmental factors result in an increased gene frequency and these variations in the genetic pool contribute to an increase in the incidence of Type 2 diabetes in children belonging to certain ethic groups.
The above mentioned factors certainly increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes in children but it is still unclear how these factors could lead to Type 2 diabetes in some children and have no effect on a few other kids. However, making certain lifestyle changes by incorporating a well-balanced and a healthy diet and regular physical activity in your children can aid in the reduction and prevention of the incidence of Type 2 diabetes.