Diabetes Among Children on the Rise

by Lee Yuk Peng and Loh Foon Fong
24 July 2010, The Star

KUALA LUMPUR : More young people, some as young as seven, are suffering from Type 2 diabetes (T2D), a disease that generally hits those in their 50s.

Doctors say more primary school students have been diagnosed with T2D in the last decade, a fact that is alarming since the disease is usually linked to those much older.

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Bad Dietary

The doctors found that the young diabetics were usually obese, and their condition could be traced to eating too much unhealthy food and having a sedentary lifestyle.

They said the disease was not just about having excessive sugar in the blood system but could also affect the patient's vital organs like the heart, kidneys, nerves and eyes.

"The children's bad dietary habits of eating burgers, nuggets, fried chicken, fries and carbonated drinks are also contributing factors," Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Medical Centre senior consultant paediatrician and paediatric endocrinologist Prof Dr Wu Loo Ling said, adding that long hours of homework, watching television and playing computer games added to the problem.

Faster Rate

"Cases of children and teenagers with diabetes are increasing at a faster rate," said Dr Wu. "Between 30% and 40% of children in Western countries are overweight and the problem of overweight Malaysian children is also on the rise."

Endocrinologist Dr Lim Soo San said T2D was more apparent in people aged between 18 and 29. "We even came across children who are below 10 years old and have T2D," Dr Lim said.

The Registry on Diabetes in Children and Adolescents (2006-2007) showed that 56% of the 42 T2D cases involved obese individuals.

Junk Food

Dr Lim said parents continued to feed their children with 'junk food' due to their lack of awareness of the disease.

Dietician Mary Easaw-John said apart from bad eating habits, irregular eating hours had also contributed to the rising trend of T2D among younger people.

"People tend to eat out instead of packing food from home nowadays. And fried food is common in eateries," said Easaw, who is Dietetics Food Services of the National Heart Institute senior manager.


The Third National Health and Morbidity Survey, conducted in 2006, showed that there was a high prevalence of overweight primary school children, and over 20% of them were obese.

Statistics pointed that Malaysia had the 4th highest number of diabetes cases in Asia, with 800,000 in 2007. The number is expected to jump to 1.3 million cases this year.

The recent survey also revealed that more than 43% of Malaysian adults were overweight or obese, twice the figure a decade ago.

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