Can Diabetes Affect a Child's Weight?

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Diabetes in children affects the way that the body breaks down the glucose in the blood. In Type 1 diabetes the illness affects the body's ability to produce the enzyme insulin that prepares the glucose for use in the body; Type 2 diabetes can prevent the use of insulin on the glucose. Both types of diabetes result in too much glucose in the blood, which does have a direct affect on the child's weight if the illness is left untreated.

Diabetes and Excessive Weight Gain

  • Kids are active creatures who need fuel from food to keep their energy high. The glucose found in many foods works as fuel when it is broken down by insulin in the blood and transferred to the body's cells for use as fuel. When the glucose is left in the blood because the insulin isn't produced or the body can't absorb the glucose, it wreaks havoc on the body. Without fuel, tiredness, thirst, hunger and other common body functions become exaggerated, leading the child to overeat with no energy to play or otherwise exercise those calories away. The result is excessive weight gain, especially in kids with Type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes and Excessive Weight Loss

  • Type 1 diabetes is usually the culprit behind excessive weight loss, because the lack of insulin in the blood causes the body to flush the glucose out of the body without using it. The child's body does not get the fuel or nutrients it needs to grow, so it uses the body's stores of fat until the child has lost a large amount of weight. In fact, weight loss is one of the key signs of Type 1 diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA).

Maintaining Weight with Treatment

  • Parents can help their children shed the extra weight or pick up some needed pounds by treating their form of diabetes and monitoring the glucose levels in the blood. Type 1 diabetes requires insulin injections in the body to supplement what the pancreas -- the gland that produces insulin -- isn't supplying. Kids with Type 2 diabetes often take medication to force the body to unblock the use of glucose in the body. Both conditions require daily glucose level monitoring by drawing blood and testing it on personal glucose meters.

Other Weight Management Tips

  • The weight control doesn't end with treatment. Diet and exercise are necessary to help overweight kids with diabetes shed the excess weight and to help underweight kids build healthy weight. Parents of children with diabetes are key in maintaining the proper lifestyle changes needed to bring children to good health, despite their illness. Children can grow into healthy adults who are capable of controlling their diabetes for a long healthy life.

Common Diabetes and Weight Myths

  • The ADA notes that the most prevalent myth about diabetes and weight is that all overweight people have Type 2 diabetes. This is simply not true. Both forms of diabetes occur due to several factors, including heredity, race and sometimes injury to the pancreas. Lifestyle and weight are factors in developing the disease, but they alone do not determine which child will develop diabetes. Many kids are overweight, sedentary or have bad eating habits but never develop any form of diabetes.

References

  • Photo Credit BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images
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