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Lifestyle changes can help kids prevent diabetes

By Jeffrey Bramnick, Pure Matters

Type 2 diabetes, once the sole province of overweight adults, now affects kids who have poor eating habits and get little exercise.

Why is it so important to watch kids' weight? "Because 77 percent of overweight kids become overweight adults," says Janet H. Silverstein, M.D., a pediatric endocrinology expert in Gainesville, Fla.

"If one parent has type 2 diabetes, there's a 40 percent chance a child will develop type 2 diabetes," she adds. "When both parents have it, the chances increase to 80 percent."

But those kids are not guaranteed to become diabetics, she says. Parents can do a lot to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes in their kids -- even if the parents already have it. Dr. Silverstein and the American Diabetes Association offer these tips:

  • Ban habits that lead to overeating. "Kids eat more when they eat right out of the bag or in front of TV," Dr. Silverstein says. Make kids use a plate and eat at the table.
  • Make sure kids exercise. They need an hour a day, all or most days. "Sports teams are good, but there are many other forms of physical activity," she says, such as hide-and-go-seek.
  • Control portions. Don't let kids overeat. Switch to smaller plates to encourage smaller portions.
  • Delay seconds at mealtime. Wait 15 to 20 minutes before you offer seconds. "It takes at least that time to feel full," Dr. Silverstein says.
  • Don't buy junk food. Offer low-calorie snacks such as carrots, celery, Italian ices, low-fat cheese, or fresh fruit.
  • Limit or get rid of soda. "Sometimes parents are unaware that kids drink their calories," Dr. Silverstein says.
  • Cut back television time. Turn off the set after two hours a day -- or less.
  • Set a good example. Eat in a healthier manner -- and exercise too.



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