Parents must pay attention to the nutrition of their children to reduce the risk of exposure to adult-related diseases like obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and their attendant complications, a paediatric endocrinologist, Professor Abiola Oduwole, has advised.
She drew attention to the fact that children now develop Type 2 diabetes and also experience the same complications associated with the disease like adults.
Prof. Oduwole, who is a Consultant Paediatric Endocrinologist at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, disclosed this during an interview with PUNCH Healthwise, emphasising that physical activity is one of the ways to manage obesity in adults and children.
According to Mayo Clinic, Type 2 diabetes is a condition that happens because of a problem in the way the body regulates and uses sugar (glucose) as fuel.
It noted that Type 2 diabetes used to be known as adult-onset diabetes, but that now, both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes can begin during childhood and progress to adulthood.
“Type 2 is more common in older adults. But the increase in the number of children with obesity has led to more cases of Type 2 diabetes in younger people”, Mayo Clinic added.
The American Heart Association says overweight children and adolescents are more likely than other children and adolescents to have risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease (like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and Type 2 diabetes mellitus).
Prof. Oduwole, who is also President of the Society for Paediatric and Adolescent Endocrine in Nigeria, said 70 per cent of obesity in children has to do with nutrition and the environment.
According to her, the remaining 30 per cent has to do with endocrine problems and hormonal problems, and warned parents with premature babies not to overfeed them.
The professor of Paediatric Endocrinology at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, said Type 2 diabetes is now being diagnosed in children and described it as a worrisome development.
“Yes, it is happening. And to show that things are changing, you have what is called prediabetes. Prediabetes is a stage before it becomes Type 2 diabetes and now we are beginning to see it in children.
“Before we don’t see Type 2 diabetes in children, if we see diabetes, we say they are Type 1. But now we are seeing Type 2 diabetes in children, which is one that we see in adults as a result of obesity.
“What we are saying is that we are beginning to find comorbidities of obesity and overweight amongst our children. We are beginning to see prediabetes, high lipid profiles and things that we don’t normally see in children before.
“We are also beginning to see overweight children in the rural areas and that was how obesity started in the urban areas. We were seeing very few obese children; we were seeing more overweight and now we are seeing obese and overweight at a higher level in the rural areas”, she said.
The clinician emphasised that overweight children and adolescents are at risk for significant health problems both during their youth and as adults.
She identified lack of regular physical activities and unhealthy nutrition as factors fueling obesity in children, adding, “A lot of children don’t walk to school anymore instead they enter vehicles. Most schools don’t have playgrounds for the children and because of insecurity a lot of children are now confined indoors.
“Before, there were lots of open grounds for children to play. But things have changed. All of these are helping to increase the rate of overweight and obese children in urban areas.
“In the rural areas, we still have under-nutrition. Hardly will you find a child that is obese but you will find underweight children.
“The problem we have now is that more and more incursion of things happening in the urban areas is moving into the rural areas.”
To tackle the menace, the endocrinologist said regular physical activities remain crucial if obese children must lose weight.
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