Studies presented at the American Diabetes Association's meeting in San Francisco took a deeper look at what the presence of fat does to overweight children. Researchers found that signs of trouble emerge early, with implications for the treatment of youths with type 1 diabetes, and those at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Childhood obesity is more than a “problem,” it’s an indicator that what’s gone wrong metabolically has set young people up for a host of health problems later on. What’s worse, once a child becomes overweight, it can be very hard to reverse either the weight gain or its effects.
Studies presented at Sunday morning’s session, “Fitness and Fatness in Youth With or At Risk of Diabetes,” revealed how much researchers are learning about the effects of excess weight in children and teenagers, right down to the cellular level.
The sessions reflected a larger message at the 74th Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association, which conclude Tuesday in San Francisco, California: children are not “little adults.” Their bodies react differently to risk factors, and this reality must be taken into account when developing treatment for obesity and diabetes mellitus, both type 1 (T1DM) and type 2 (T2DM). Obesity’s rise, both in the United States and around the world, is especially problematic for T1DM youth, as they must take insulin which puts them at further risk of weight gain. Among the studies presented:
An audience member observed that that many of the results had implications for the emotionally charged issue of encouraging weight loss in younger girls; the commenter said data show girls who are overweight in their teens are more likely to skip insulin.
A sign of hope came from Curtis Harrod, MPH, of the University of Colorado, whose study examined the relationship between physical activity during pregnancy and infant birth weight and neonatal composition. Harrod found that there was little relationship between activity in the first two trimesters and neonatal composition, but that increased activity in the final trimester was associated with lower levels of neonatal adiposity. Thus, encouraging mothers who are at-risk of having overweight children to exercise more during pregnancy could have positive effects on the child at birth, and later in life.5