In what can only be an issue of deep concern for parents and for the medical profession, research has shown that the ongoing dramatic increase in obesity among U.S.young people is beginning to reveal itself in an increasing number of children who are taking drugs for Type-II diabetes and diabetes-related conditions, according to a Financial Times article reported on MSNBC, Medco, the largest U.S. drug benefits manager, doing a drug usage survey for the Financial Times, found that between 2001 and 2005, the number of children taking medicine for Type-II diabetes more than doubled.
Another concern is that a high percentage of children are also taking medication for chronic conditions that normally affect adults and that are usually related to obesity and diabetes, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and asthma. Type-II diabetes was once largely restricted to obese or older adults. Its occurrence in children and teenagers is one more reason why the U.S. needs to get a handle on the problem of obesity.
Dr. Robert Epstein, chief medical officer for Medco, said, “You don’t envision that so many kids are taking multiple medications. These kids clearly have a constellation of problems.”
I confess that I have been part of the problem. When I was a teacher in a Christian school, I allowed my students regular “pop days,” where they could bring a can of pop to class to enjoy while we worked. There were also occasional “food days” where we celebrated birthdays or other special days with a potluck of snack foods. With some exceptions, the students at the school did not exhibit any problems with obesity. That doesn’t excuse the example that I, as a teacher, was setting in terms of healthy eating.
The future doesn’t look bright. According to the Times article, the International Diabetes Foundation is estimating a jump in global cases of diabetes to 7.3% or 380 million people by 2025. This year the incidence of cases is 6% or 246 million people. In 2002, about 6% of the U.S. population or 18 million people had the disease, according to the American Diabetes Association.
Type-II diabetes is growing so rapidly because of its relationship with obesity. It accounts for 90-95% of all cases. In Type-II diabetes, the body resists insulin. In Type-I, the body does not make enough insulin.
Medco’s research found a 146% increase over four years in young people, aged 10-19, taking Type-II drugs and a 115% increase in all children in their sample.
In a related story, reported by the Associated Press, the number of adolescent girls taking Type-II diabetes drugs has nearly tripled in five years. The use of medication for psychotic behavior and insomnia doubled among boys and girls in the 10-19 age range, according to a study.
Clearly something has to be done, something more than the desperate quick fix of surgery to reduce the size of the stomach in the hope of curbing the appetite. What is needed is not a physical procedure, but a change of attitude, beginning with parents and extending into virtually every area of society. Without that, a generation of young people will be condemned to early death preceded by physical problems that will diminish their quality of life. Are we prepared to accept that as something that we cannot stop?