Diabetes is a disease that affects how the body uses glucose,
the main type of sugar in the blood. Glucose, which comes from the foods we eat, is
the major source of energy needed to fuel the body. To use glucose, the body needs
the hormone insulin. But in
people with diabetes, the body either can't make insulin or the insulin doesn't
work in the body like it should.
The two major types of diabetes are:
Type 1 diabetes, in which the immune
system attacks the pancreas
and destroys the cells that make insulin.
Type 2 diabetes, in which the pancreas can still make insulin,
but the body doesn't respond to it properly.
In both types of diabetes, glucose can't get into the cells normally. This causes
a rise in blood sugar
levels, which can make someone sick if not treated.
Can Type 1 Diabetes Be Prevented?
Type 1 diabetes can't be prevented. Doctors can't even tell who will get it and
No one knows for sure what causes type 1 diabetes, but scientists think it has
something to do with genes.
But just getting the genes for diabetes isn't usually enough. In most cases, a child
has to be exposed to something else — like a virus — to get type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes isn't contagious, so kids and teens can't catch it from another
person or pass it along to friends or family members. And eating too much sugar doesn't
cause type 1 diabetes, either.
There's no reliable way to predict who will get type 1 diabetes, but blood tests
can find early signs of it. These tests aren't done routinely, however, because doctors
don't have any way to stop a child from developing the disease, even if the tests
Can Type 2 Diabetes Be Prevented?
Unlike type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes can sometimes be prevented. Excessive weight
and a sedentary lifestyle are all things that put a person at risk for type 2 diabetes.
In the past, type 2 diabetes usually happened only in adults. But now, more kids
and teens are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, due to the rapidly increasing
number of overweight kids.
Although kids and teens might be able to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes
by managing their weight and increasing physical activity, other risk factors for
type 2 diabetes can't be changed. Kids with one or more family members with type
2 diabetes have an increased risk for the disease, and some ethnic and racial groups
are more likely to developing it.
How Can I Protect My Kids From Developing Type 2 Diabetes?
These steps can help reduce your kids' risk for developing type 2 diabetes
and the health problems it can cause:
Make sure kids eat a healthy diet. Encouraging your kids to eat
low-fat, nutrient-rich foods
— like whole-grain cereals and breads, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and
lean proteins — can help prevent excessive weight gain, a major risk factor
for type 2 diabetes.
Limit sugary foods and beverages. Consuming lots of sugar-filled
foods and beverages — like sodas, juices, and iced teas — can lead to
excessive weight gain.
Encourage lots of physical activity.Staying
active and limiting the time spent in sedentary activities — like watching
TV, being online, or playing video or computer games — can help reduce the risk
of weight gain and help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. Being active can be
as simple as walking the dog or mowing the lawn. Try to do something that gets you
and your kids moving every day.
If you think your child may be overweight and at risk for type 2 diabetes, talk
to your doctor or a registered dietitian. They can help you learn what your child's
weight goals should be and how to reach them.