Kids, diabetes and sugar

childhood diabetesI note the storm of controversy after a TV presenter suggested that Easter eggs should not be given to children as they would contribute to the rising tide of childhood obesity and diabetes.

This is an interesting issue – because in this argument everyone is right, and everyone is wrong.

So here’s my take on it in the hope that everyone feels better and more informed:

OK so the first thing to say is that MOST childhood diabetes is Type 1. In Type 1 the pancreas simply does not work, and does not produce insulin.  It is not a disease associated with obesity or sugar consumption.  These kids (or their parents) didn’t bring this on themselves through inappropriate diet.  The root cause of upset and annoyance to parents with diabetic offspring is that their kids are unfairly stigmatised as greedy or fat.

And yes – we should protect these kids from this!

Now…

…you can feel the ‘but’ coming can’t you…

chihood obesity…we also have to face the fact that we do have a looming epidemic of childhood obesity, and subsequent Type 2 diabetes – the kind that definitely IS linked to inappropriate sugar consumption.  And yes – we should also be doing everything we can to protect these kids from the consequences of these poor dietary choices.  So here, I believe, we have an absolute duty to make children and parents aware of the legacy we are creating by feeding too much sugary foods and sweets to our kids – including bingeing on Easter eggs!

And here is the not-so-sweet irony: it isn’t OK to feed a child with Type 1 those sugary foods anymore than it is to feed them to any other child.

OK so the child with Type 1 can simply inject some insulin to compensate?  Well at least in theory.  But all that does is remove glucose from the blood stream.  It won’t protect the Type 1 child from getting fat, building up internal inflammation, and then developing the same insulin resistance as any other child.

We already know that it’s the norm for insulin doses to have to rise over time.  It’s the norm for complications and a shorter life span for those injecting insulin.  That’s because injecting insulin does not compensate for poor food choices. It doesn’t protect anyone from other complications or diseases associated with obesity.

So let’s get off our high horses and understand that sugary foods, snacks and sweets don’t serve any child well at all. Then maybe we have healthier young people and adults in the future.  Until we shout with one voice the food manufacturers that make our kids sick, and keep them in a downward spiral of sickness, will continue to get away with their low behaviour, and lets our errant government off the hook!

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