Councils warn today that more than 600 children and teenagers are being treated for a type of diabetes normally only seen in adults aged over 40 an increase of 14 per cent in a year, which reinforces the need for urgent action on obesity.
The Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, says the continuing rise in cases of Type 2 diabetes in children is "a hugely disturbing trend" and an important reminder of one of the biggest public health challenges the country faces, ahead of the first anniversary of the publication of the Government's childhood obesity plan.
While not every case of Type 2 diabetes is as a result of being overweight and obese, it is the single greatest risk factor. According to figures for 2015/16 from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, 621 children and young people under the age of 25 received care for Type 2 diabetes from Paediatric Diabetes Units in England and Wales, of which 78.5 per cent were also obese. Fifteen children with Type 2 were aged between five and nine.
This is an increase of 76 on the number for 2014/15.
However as these figures only relate to those treated in paediatric practice, and not for example, primary care, the actual number of young people with Type 2 diabetes is likely to be even higher.
Libby Dowling, Senior Clinical Advisor for Diabetes UK, said:
“It is extremely worrying that more young people are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, especially as we know that for nearly 80 per cent obesity is the likely cause for developing the condition. Type 2 diabetes can lead to devastating complications in adults, like heart disease, kidney failure and blindness and it seems to be even more aggressive in children, who develop high blood pressure and high cholesterol even quicker. Not only that, but the diagnosis can have a big impact on a child’s psychological health.
“Some of the risk factors for Type 2 diabetes are out of our control, but we can do something about being overweight or obese which is one of the most significant risk factors. It’s shocking that children are having to struggle with a condition that could have been prevented. The government needs to take decisive action to make the healthy choice the easy choice, including stronger regulation on junk food marketing to children and supporting the reformulation of foods to reduce sugar and saturated fat. We need to make it as easy as possible for children and their families to lead healthy lives and reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and its serious complications.”