Why are more children being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes?

Dr. Andrea Pennington, MD
Integrative Medicine Specialist
As you've undoubtedly learned, type 2 diabetes is a condition that is caused by a lack of physical activity, overweight and unhealthy eating. Previously, it was called adult onset diabetes because it usually occurred in people over 40. The age of onset has been decreasing steadily over the past 30 years. Now we have children as young as 8 years old being diagnosed with this deadly condition. Sadly, these kids will have a shortened lifespan -- by 8 to 12 years!

How did we get so out of control? This is a multifactorial problem with the loss of in-school physical education, after-school sports, latchkey children going to empty homes and staying indoors playing video games, watching TV and surfing the Internet. Of course, when both parents are working outside of the home, the usual complaint is that there is no time to prepare healthy meals, our children are picky and don't want to eat veggies, and it costs too much to eat healthy anyway.

Clearly this is a challenge to address during a recession, but since the family is the cornerstone for health and well-being, I feel that the family at home is the place that healing our children should start.

A concerning byproduct of the obesity epidemic among children and teenagers is the increase of type 2 diabetes among school-age kids. Type 2 diabetes was commonly known as “adult-onset” diabetes because it wouldn’t develop for years and is influenced heavily by lifestyle factors, including being overweight or obese, poor diet and lack of exercise or regular physical activity. In contrast, type 1 diabetes, formerly called “juvenile diabetes,” is when an individual is born with an immune system that destroys cells vital to the making of insulin.

Type 2 diabetes is now increasing among 10- to 19-year-olds. From 2002 to 2012, researchers found that rates for both types of diabetes increased, especially among racial and ethnic minorities. However, cases of type 2 diabetes increased at a higher rate than those of type 1. Between 2002 and 2012, the rate of type 2 diabetes increased 4.8% a year, compared to 1.8% a year for type 1 diabetes cases.

The increase in incidence of type 2 diabetes is likely related primarily to the increases in overweight and obesity in youth, although this is not the only reason.

Continue Learning about Diabetes


Diabetes mellitus (MEL-ih-tus), often referred to as diabetes, is characterized by high blood glucose (sugar) levels that result from the body’s inability to produce enough insulin and/or effectively utilize the insulin. Diabetes ...

is a serious, life-long condition and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Diabetes is a disorder of metabolism (the body's way of digesting food and converting it into energy). There are three forms of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that accounts for five- to 10-percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes may account for 90- to 95-percent of all diagnosed cases. The third type of diabetes occurs in pregnancy and is referred to as gestational diabetes. Left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause health issues for pregnant women and their babies. People with diabetes can take preventive steps to control this disease and decrease the risk of further complications.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.