Why would a 3 year old develop Type 2 diabetes?

chihood obesityA few days ago the world was aghast at the story of a 3 year old Texan toddler developing Type 2 diabetes. The newspapers, TV, radio and social media channels all carried the story.

This quote, in an article in The Independent, left me bemused:

Experts who reviewed the girl’s diet found “poor family nutritional habits with uncontrolled counting of calories and fat”.

Nowhere in this article was there any criticism of dietary sugar being a causal factor – just “calories” and “fat”. Surely there is enough evidence available now for us all to realise that the biggest dietary culprit for obesity amongst young children is sugar or refined carbs that the body can quickly turn into sugar. Yet this article lets the pure white and deadly stuff totally off the hook.

This story, sadly, isn’t isolated. In January this year we saw similar cases of Scottish children as young as 4 years of age also being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. The article carried in The Scotsman newspaper at the time also failed to discuss the role of sugar in relation to these children.

The media has a responsibility to keep up the pressure on sugar. Powerful lobbyists will be doing their best to downplay the role of sugar in the burgeoning obesity and diabetes crises, but for the sake of such young children we have to make sure the finger is well and truly pointed in the right direction. At sugar.

There is enough evidence now to back up the notion that added sugars should be a real focus for change: not just obvious sugars in sweets, cakes, biscuits etc, but those needless and mischievously added to savoury foods, sauces, processed foods. Then of course there is the issue that even fresh fruit and vegetables have been bred to contain more sugars, to make tastes more palatable to children it seems.

It’s really sad to see children developing serious debilitating conditions at such young ages, and it’s too simplistic just to blame parents. Now I’m not letting them off the hook here – it’s obvious that 5 and half stones is far too heavy for a 3 year old girl and yes parents of overweight children could take advice before things get to such extreme  levels. But advice from whom? The messages about healthy eating are confusing. I see plenty of evidence, both clinically and anecdotally in everyday life, of people becoming overweight and obese DESPITE trying to eat healthily. Next time you’re in a supermarket notice how many overweight people are pushing shopping trolleys filled with low-fat manufactured food products. The very products the food industry wants you to believe, and go on believing, will help you maintain good health and an appropriate weight. They won’t. Low-fat products mean higher-sugar products of course.

So it’s really unhelpful that we have the media STILL talking about fat instead of sugar in relation to obesity. We just need to stay focused on one simple message please: SUGAR IS MAKING OUR KIDS FAT AND SICK.

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