South Mumbai resident, Akash (name changed)), 13, was always a chubby child. But his father, a diabetic, recently got the scare of his life when he checked the blood sugar of his son using his portable glucometre.
"Akash's fasting sugar levels were very close to the limit prescribed for diabetes. His father, a patient of mine, got him to the clinic on Thursday," said Dr Nikhil Bhagwat, consulting endocrinologist in south Mumbai.
Bhagwat found out Akash's daily routine did not include any physical activity. "He used to go to school, then tuitions and his day ended with doing his homework. No wonder the boy weighed 90 kg," Bhagwat said.
Doctors said there has been a steep rise in the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes in young adults. While Type 1 diabetes is juvenile diabetes, where one's pancreas does not secrete enough insulin, Type 2 diabetes is caused when the action of insulin production is impaired due to factors such as obesity, high calorie food intake or genetic factors.
"When I started my practice in 2001, I saw only people in their 50s and 60s getting diabetes. The spectrum of patients has changed over the years. We started seeing patients in their 30s and 40s, and now increasingly teenagers with Type 2 diabetes," said Bhagwat.
"The major reason for the increase is faulty diet and nutrition. Children are into colas, bakery products, saturated fat foodstuff such as burgers, chips, and other fried items," said, Dr Anil Bhoraskar, diabetologist, Asian Heart Institute.
A survey between January 2010 and September 2011 by Metropolis Healthcare, a multinational chain of diagnostic laboratories, has revealed that 26.53% of the 4.20 lakh diabetics screened in Mumbai are between 18 and 30 years and nearly 37.42% are between 30 and 40 years. The survey has also shown that of the 24.34 lakh Mumbaiites screened, 17.26 % were detected with borderline diabetes and diabetes.
Parents are as much to blame, said doctors. "Parents have to encourage eating home-cooked food. They have to be supportive. They cannot tell a child to go for a walk. They need to accompany them," said Bhagwat.
If adequate measures are taken, Type 2 diabetes in children can be reversed. Dr Nadeem Rais recalled the case of a 14-year old Nepali girl who he treated at Saifee Hospital two years ago. "The girl had very high diabetes but wanted to join a boarding school in India. She started exercising and dieting. Her diabetes reversed soon and she has maintained a healthy lifestyle," said Rais proudly.