Weak Bone Risk for Diabetic Children

September 1, 2010 by  
Filed under Health

Menopausal women are not the only ones at risk for bone loss according to the researchers at Georgia Medical College in the USA.

Osteoporosis is generally considered a condition that is primarily affects women during and after menopause but now it seems there is another group who could also be at risk. We know that one of the risk factors for diabetes in childhood is being overweight and a recent study of 140 overweight children age 7-11 and who got little regular exercise has found that the 30 percent with signs of poor blood sugar regulation had 4-5 percent less bone mass.

Now bone mass is a measure of bone strength and Dr. Norman Pollock, bone biologist at MCG’s Georgia Prevention Institute, has confirmed that this study is the first to suggest the association between weaker bones and type 2 diabetes risk in children.

Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes in adults and sadly is now becoming more common in children as it is often associated with being overweight and taking little exercise. The study has just been published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research and according to. Dr. Pollock “while overweight children may have more bone mass than normal-weight kids, it may not be big, or strong enough, to compensate for their larger size.”

Though of course it is not the case that everyone who is overweight has weak bones, Dr. Pollock feels it may have more to do with how fat is distributed throughout the body. For instance pre-diabetics tend to have more fat around their abdominal area, specifically visceral fat, a type of fat deep in the belly that is linked to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

In this study, higher amounts of visceral fat were associated with lower bone mass while more body fat overall was associated with higher bone mass. “Taken together, it seems that excessive abdominal fat may play a key role linking pre-diabetes to lower bone mass,” Pollock said.

The good news is children — or more accurately their parents — have time to fix this problem which can have the potential for lifelong health consequences. Two of the simplest solutions are to engage children in regular exercise that can be maintained because they enjoy it and will continue it into adulthood and to pay real attention to their diet.

If parents truly want to enhance bone strength and ultimately reduce the risk of osteoporosis during childhood, then these two simple measures will not only improve their health but research has shown can also improve their ability to learn.

Diabetes and the Younger Generation

First the bad news: the onset of type 2 diabetes appears to be rapidly increasing for people in their twenties. This is an age group that most doctors traditionally wouldn’t think about diagnosing for diabetes, but the evidence shows that it is now a serious factor.

Diabetes Care magazine this week ran a report from the University of Michigan study that showed there had been a 40 per cent increase in hospitalisations related to diabetes among those aged 20 to 29. Joyce Lee, M.D. and her colleagues studied data from the period 1993 to the end of 2004 and one of the conclusions they reached was that this huge increase probably was reflecting the physiological connection between obesity and type 2 diabetes. Throughout the Western world, and particularly in the USA and UK, there has been an unprecedented rise in childhood obesity. This is due to the change in diet, which has many youngsters consuming far more empty calories from snacks such as crisps and carbonated soft drinks, and this has unfortunately been mirrored by a corresponding decrease in physical exercise and activity.

Interestingly the rate of increase of childhood diabetes has remained fairly stable, leading to the possible conclusion that damage done in childhood from diet takes some time to take effect, and that most people on leaving school undertake far less exercise than they did when younger.

Now the good news: do you know anyone under the age of 30 without a mobile phone? Texting is as automatic as breathing to most young people, so some health practices are taking advantage of this to track individuals with acute and chronic medical conditions such as asthma and diabetes. This group may not respond well to conventional follow up methods, but they always check their messages so this one way to ensure that the message about medication and specific health practices is getting through. For example, in one study in Scotland, young diabetics could send a text message to their doctor to check how to modify their insulin treatment after eating certain foods, or drinking alcohol at a party.