5 Reasons Why Diabetes is Increasing in Youth

Diabetes is no longer constricted to age. The dreaded condition is now taking alarming proportions in youth.  There are more than 72 million adults in India with diabetes and worldwide it has afflicted more than 422 million people. Basically, Type 1 diabetes which is more common is an autoimmune disease where the immune system goes rogue and destroys the cells producing insulin in the pancreas. Hence, a patient requires insulin to survive. Whereas type 2 diabetes is a condition when the body cannot use insulin produced efficiently because of metabolic factors resulting in the pancreas to overwork and at some point stop producing insulin completely.

Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes in youth

In the next decade the number of diabetic people in India is going to double but the startling fact is Type 2 diabetes that normally afflicts older adults is now striking young Indians and to add on, it is striking at a very fast rate. One in every four of India’s youth suffers from the deadlier type 2 diabetes. Especially people under the age of 25 are more susceptible and increasingly at risk of type 2 diabetes. Though younger diabetics don’t need insulin to survive, they carry greater risk of life threatening complications such as kidney damage, heart disease than people with insulin-dependent diabetes. As per statistics and data available from the Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR’s) 25.3% people under 25 with diabetes in India have adult-onset type 2 diabetes which was earlier restricted to older adults with a family history of diabetes, obesity, unhealthy diets and inactivity. As per Dr. Tanvir Kaur, deputy director general, ICMR, “Youth-onset type 2 diabetes is no longer rare. Family history is strong and obesity, metabolic syndrome and acanthosisnigricans (dark, velvety skin patches) are usually seen in young patients with type 2 diabetes. The findings also show that Type 2 diabetes can be more aggressive in youth than adults as in the risk of complications for younger age group is twofold to threefold higher than type 1 diabetes. This warning comes from none other than Dr. Nikhil Tandon, professor and head of endocrinology and metabolism, AIIMS.

Another alarming fact that has surfaced from the diabetic registry is that 56.1% of the registered young diabetics require hospitalisation at least once for acute diabetes-related complications and one in seven (14.1 %) went through at least one complication or “co-morbid” condition such as hypothyroidism, dyslipidaemia (unhealthy blood fats such as cholesterol and triglycerides), hypertension, tuberculosis or sepsis. The primary reason for this is because diagnosis is often late and disease mismanagement and lack of awareness leading to complications and hospital emergencies. What the youth needs to be aware of is an unhealthy lifestyle, high calorie diet, inactivity and obesity plays a role and what we should be cautious of is the fact that more type-2 diabetes are now seen in urban areas than rural.

5 reasons for diabetes in youth:

  1. Unhealthy lifestyle
  2. High calorie diet
  3. Inactivity
  4. Obesity
  5. Imbalances in childhood

So, if one is having loss of appetite, weight loss, frequent urination and dehydration then the alarm bells are ringing.

Unhealthy lifestyle:

With rapid economic growth the lifestyle of Indians has changed. People today live a more sedentary life than ever before using cars and public transportation instead of walking or riding bicycles and more hours are spent in front of a computer screen and television.

High calorie diet:

Today not only people eat out more often but they prefer Western-style junk food such as burgers and pizza over traditional lentil and vegetable meals.

Obesity:

All these changes have brought in a sharp rise of obesity. We see more obese children and youth today than ever before. This is contrasting as India still has some of the world’s worst levels of malnourishment and children have stunted growth due to a paucity of food.

Inactivity:

Coupled with the sedentary life style is inactivity. No physical activity is pursued alongside. The sharp rise in diabetes in youth is primarily because of this.

Imbalances in Childhood:

In cases of diabetes in children, available data shows that lack of breastfeeding is a possible risk factor for manifestation of both Type 1 and Type2 Diabetes. The benefits of breast feeding is multifarious and helps the baby with bioactive substances which promote the maturation of the immune system helping reduce insulin resistance and preventing excessive weight gain during childhood.