More kids suffering adult-type diabetes

A LANDMARK study has found an alarming increase in the number of Singapore children with a type of diabetes that traditionally afflicts adults above the age of 40. 

Doctors blame obesity and the inactive lifestyles of many adolescents for the rise in Type 2 diabetes, which affects 17% of diabetic children here. 

When compared to diabetic children in Asia, the 2001 study of children with diabetes found Singapore in No 2 position among nine Asian countries and Australia. 

Japan tops the list with 21% of its diabetic children having Type 2, while in the other countries, the figure is 10% on average. The study was organised by the International Diabetes Foundation (Western Pacific Region) and health-care company Novo Nordisk. 

Ten years ago, Singapore children did not have Type 2 diabetes, said Dr Warren Lee of KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, who co-led the Singapore part of the study, which involved a total of 2,600 diabetic children aged 18 and below – 90 of them from Singapore. 

“We think what has been happening is a confluence of diet and lifestyle factors on a genetic background that was geared to a more frugal lifestyle,” said Dr Lee. 

“As Asia has become more affluent ... the opportunities and facilities for exercise have become fewer, so it is really difficult for kids to burn it all off.”  

Parents also have a hard time steering their children away from the many fatty foods available to them. 

Typically in the past, children would have Type 1 diabetes, in which the body attacks the cells that produce insulin. The cause for this is unknown. 

Type 2 occurs when a person’s body cannot produce enough insulin, or cannot properly use its insulin to direct glucose to the cells for energy. 

The danger of this type of diabetes, said Dr Lee, is that fewer than half will exhibit the symptoms, which include extreme fatigue, frequent urination, excessive thirst and weight loss. 

But dark shiny patches on the skin, often found between the fingers and toes and on the back of the neck, often betray the disease, which accounts for 90% to 95% of diabetes cases worldwide. 

It can lead to heart disease, blindness and kidney failure, and a patient’s limbs may have to be amputated. – The Straits Times/Asia News Network  

For another perspective from The Straits Times, a partner of Asia News Network, click here.

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