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Jewish World Review
On Nutrition: Helping little cowpokes dodge diabetes
Way back in my rodeo days, a popular western song began, "Mommas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys. Don't let 'em pick guitar and drive them old trucks. Let 'em be doctors and lawyers and such."
Times have changed. Today the song might be, "Mommas, don't let your babies grow up to be couch-boys. Don't let 'em text cell phones and sit on their tufts. Let 'em be active and playful and such."
Why the need to change our tune? There's a global epidemic of type 2 diabetes occurring in children - a phenomenom that did not even exist 20 or 30 years ago, says diabetes expert Dr. Francine Kaufman.
In the old days, a child diagnosed with diabetes most often had type 1 - an autoimmune disorder in which the body is unable to produce the hormone insulin. Type 2 diabetes - a condition of insulin "resistance" - was mostly seen in adults who became older, heavier and less active.
Today as children have become heavier and less active, more and more are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Genetics is partly responsible, says Kaufman. Moms and dads can pass on a genetic propensity for type 2 diabetes to their children. But even when family history loads the gun for diabetes, changes in lifestyle can keep the trigger from being pulled. Here are some ideas:
Momma's, don't let your pregnancies be complicated by excessive weight gain. Evidence is mounting that this can be a risk for type 2 diabetes even before a child is born.
Let 'em be breastfeed until at least 6 months of age. Besides being top-notch nutrition, breastfed babies have a lower risk for obesity as well as type 1 and type 2 diabetes, reports Kaufman.
Daddies, do all you can to keep your kids active. Physical activity helps prevent excess weight gain and the "insulin resistance" that can lead to type 2 diabetes, say experts.
Don't let them gulp sodas and sugary drinks. Little bodies respond to big doses of liquid sugar with a robust insulin response, says Kaufman. Over time, this can put strain on the pancreas - the organ that makes insulin. Kaufman advises "no drinking sugar, including juice" for most children. If juice is given to toddlers, it should be diluted with water.
Let 'em eat salads and whole grains and fruit. You too, Mom and Dad. Because the stirrings of type 2 diabetes can start as early as pregnancy, it can hit kids much more aggressively than type 2 in adults. Reasonable eating and exercise habits started early in families can keep little cowpokes from becoming excessively heavy. And when kids dodge obesity, they are likely to dodge type 2 diabetes as well.
"Prevention should be the focus," says Kaufman. Amen to that, cowboys and cowgirls!
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Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula.
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