One of the world’s oldest, best known, peer-reviewed medical journals, the Lancet, in this editorial, criticizes the UK’s inadequate plan for tackling childhood obesity. It warns that the government’s focus on calorie reduction alone is alarming, far from the joined-up thinking so important to address childhood obesity in a holistic way. It asks ‘what’s is being done to promote healthier foods?’ and ‘where is the long-term planning for urban environments that can contribute to obesity reduction by facilitating and promoting increased physical activity?’
But what really shocked me was the focus on childhood Type 2 Diabetes. Let me quote the Lancet:
The latest data highlighting an increasing prevalence of type 2 diabetes in young people (621 received care from pediatric diabetic clinics in 2015–16), confronting childhood obesity remains an urgent public health challenge.
I actually wondered if the Lancet editorial team were being a bit alarmist, so I explored the research literature on ‘type 2 diabetes in youth‘ and was rather shocked by the number of eminent research articles.
US research warns of an emerging epidemic of type 2 diabetes in young people, especially in racial minorities, particularly North American Indians and African-Americans. But the literature highlights type 2 diabetes problems with children in Japan too. Another study highlighted that 85% of the affected children were overweight or obese, with one or more parents frequently suffering from type 2 diabetes and obese. With adulthood, there will be a lifetime of long-term complications and expensive medical care costs.
Treatment is difficult because of the age factor but includes monitoring glucose levels, lifestyle changes and where appropriate medication. Lifestyle is a mix of a low carbohydrate diet and regular exercise. But as the research literature highlights, context is critical too.
Let me ask an open question:
What might a holistic plan for UK government intervention on childhood type 2 diabetes include?