Weight Gain and Adolescence
What are the Health Effects? – Complications of Obesity in Adolescents
A recent review by Karam in Pediatric Endocrinology Reviews (August 2008, Volume 5, supplement 4, page 980) discusses the growing problem of type II diabetes among adolescents. Since most type II diabetes (previously referred to commonly as “adult onset diabetes”) is related to weight gain, and since weight gain and obesity continue to rise among children and adolescents, we see a parallel rise in the development of new cases of type II diabetes among children ages 13 to 17. The authors discuss methods to attempt to prevent the onset of diabetes in this patient population chiefly by recognizing when kids become at risk for the disease through weight gain at an early age.
These are the types of efforts that are very difficult, but are the same efforts being undertaken across the country and across the world in school districts and community programs and through nonprofit foundations like the Obesity Prevention Foundation.
Identifying adolescents who are at risk for diabetes involves measuring height and weight, calculating a Body Mass Index, and intervening with counseling and education of both the kids and the parents. The hope is this will lead to improved and healthier eating, reduce calorie intake, increase physical activity and a correction of the weight gain curve toward a more normal Body Mass Index. In this way, it is hoped that some kids will avoid developing early onset of type II diabetes.
Sometimes identifying kids who are overweight and targeting them specifically with counseling and education can seem intrusive or discriminatory. There might also be a perception of being judged or a misplaced focus on appearance and social norms instead of on health and diabetes prevention.
Navigating all of these personal, political and social obstacles is no easy task, but with the rising rates of type II diabetes among our young people, what other choice do we have but to try hard to protect the health of our young people?