Can Diabetes Be Prevented?

Print this page Bookmark and Share
Parents

Parents want to protect their kids from everything, which is virtually impossible, of course. But can you prevent your child from getting diabetes?

About Diabetes

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's functions. 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:

  1. type 1 diabetes, in which the immune system attacks the pancreas and destroys the cells that make insulin
  2. 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 who won't.

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.

While type 1 diabetes can't be prevented, some research suggests that breastfeeding, avoiding early introduction of solid foods, and other factors might play a role in lowering the risk of developing the disease. There's no reliable way to predict who will get type 1 diabetes, but blood tests can detect 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 are positive.

Can Type 2 Diabetes Be Prevented?

Unlike type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes can sometimes be prevented. Excessive weight gain, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle are all factors that put a person at risk for type 2 diabetes.

In the past, type 2 diabetes almost exclusively affected adults, usually those who were overweight. Doctors even referred to type 2 diabetes as adult-onset diabetes. But now, more children and teens are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, which experts say is related to the rapidly increasing number of overweight kids.

Although kids and teens may 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 of developing the disease. Also, certain ethnic and racial groups tend to be more prone to developing it, including those of Native American, African American, Hispanic/Latino, or Asian/Pacific Island descent.

Taking Steps to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

These simple strategies can help reduce your kids' risk for developing type 2 diabetes and other associated health problems:

  • 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 — also can lead to excessive weight gain.
  • Encourage increased physical activity. Staying active and decreasing the amount of time spent in sedentary activities — like watching TV or playing video or computer games — can also 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, therefore, at increased risk of type 2 diabetes, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian. They can help you determine what your child's weight goals should be and how to reach them.

It's important for growing kids to get enough calories and nutrients for normal growth and development, while preventing the excessive weight gain that can set the stage for type 2 diabetes and other health problems.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: April 2012



Related Resources

OrganizationNational Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases This group conducts and supports research on many serious diseases affecting public health.
OrganizationAmerican Diabetes Association (ADA) The ADA website includes news, information, tips, and recipes for people with diabetes.
Web SiteChildren With Diabetes This website offers true stories about kids and teens who have diabetes.
Web SiteJoslin Diabetes Center On-Line Library The website of this Boston-based center has more than 30 articles about how you can monitor blood sugar and manage diabetes.
OrganizationJuvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International (JDRF) JDF's mission is to find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research.


Related Articles

Other Diseases That Are More Common in People With Type 1 Diabetes Kids and teens with type 1 diabetes have a greater risk for thyroid disease, celiac disease, and Addison's disease. Learn more about these autoimmune disorders.
Long-Term Complications of Diabetes Talking or thinking about the long-term complications associated with diabetes can be scary for parents and kids. But being aware of diabetes complications can help prevent them.
Diabetes Facts and Myths If your child has diabetes, it's important to educate yourself so you can help manage it. This means arming yourself with the right information.
Diabetes Center Does your child have type 1 or type 2 diabetes? Learn how to manage the disease and keep your child healthy.
Talking to Your Child About Diabetes The more you know about diabetes, the less anxious and better prepared you'll be to talk about it with your child.
Weight and Diabetes A balanced diet and an active lifestyle are important for kids with diabetes because weight can influence diabetes, and diabetes can influence weight.
Overweight and Obesity The number of overweight and obese kids is growing at a phenomenal rate. Here's how you can help to overcome overweight and obesity in your own family.
Type 1 Diabetes: What Is It? Every year in the United States, 13,000 children are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. With some practical knowledge, you can become your child's most important ally in learning to live with the disease.
Type 2 Diabetes: What Is It? With some practical knowledge about type 2 diabetes, you can become your child's most important ally in learning to live with the disease.



Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995-2012 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.



 

Upcoming Events

Get your family started on a healthy lifestyle

Join the Beavercreek TWIG groups 11, 17, and 22 for the annual spring luncheon, Run for the Roses, on April 26, 2014 at the Beavercreek Golf Club.

City of Sidney police and Sidney YMCA Healthy Kids Day

View full event calendarView full event calendar

Health and Safety

Your child's health and safety is our top priority

Accreditations

The Children's Medical Center of Dayton Dayton Children's
The Right Care for the Right Reasons

One Children's Plaza - Dayton, Ohio - 45404-1815
937-641-3000
www.childrensdayton.org