The Real Cause of Childhood Diabetes

Fat Children

Fat Children

In the United States, the rise in childhood/adolescent cases of obesity and diabetes is shocking.

The US Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, calls it “epidemic”. From 1978 to 2004, the incidence of childhood diabetes rose from 14.8 percent to 23.9 percent in one sample population alone.

This increase, greatest among Native American/Alaskan Native youth, Asian Americans (Chinese, Filipinos, Vietnamese, etc.), Hispanics, and African Americans, rose 3.3 percent in two years – from 2010 to 2012. Among Hispanic populations, hardest hit are Puerto Ricans (14.8 percent), with Mexican Americans coming in a close second at 13.9 percent.

The statistics are appalling. The terrifying part? Deaths from diabetes are very likely under-reported. Death certificates with diabetes as the cause were issued in 10 to 15 percent of cases, but a whopping 35 to 40 percent showed the disease as an underlying cause of death. That is, a child may have died from pneumonia, but it was diabetes that destroyed his or her immune system and allowed the pneumonia to take hold.

We have been warned about this. In a 1999 paper, researchers baldly stated that an epidemic of type 2 diabetes was about to emerge, especially among (then called) “minority groups”. They were speaking of primarily of Hispanics, but also focused on Native Americans, all of whom share what is called a “thrifty” gene.

This gene, found among populations who were historically hunter-gatherers, subject to feast-or-famine eating cycles, loses its ability to regulate blood sugar in a primarily “feast” environment.

Experts cite fast food, refined sugar, and white flour as a few of the probable causes, and they are no doubt right, as far as it goes. But there may be more to the story. In the case of type 1 diabetes, researchers now say that stress – death in the family, divorce, separation, illness, or extreme poverty – is three times more likely to raise the risk of diabetes than any other effect alone.

This 300-percent increased risk decreased when researchers factored in birth size, heredity (of type 2 diabetes), parental education, economic status, and obesity, but remained statistically significant.

What can we as parents (and citizens) do? We can vote for a return to what some disparagingly call “the nanny state”, particularly where safety-net programs for children and young people are concerned.

Free school lunches? Why not, if General Electric earned $10.3 billion but ended up paying no taxes in 2011? Free health care for the children of parents making less than $25,000 a year ($35,000 for a joint income)? Again, why not, except for Obamacare, which was admittedly written by the insurance companies and withheld from public scrutiny until it was passed!

Next time you go to vote, think about income disparity, another rising epidemic in America. Remember the saying, “A man who has nothing has nothing to lose”, and stop asking yourself why violent crime is on the rise among the nation’s poor.

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