Hundreds of obese children will have to undergo NHS weight-loss surgery to reverse diabetes, according to one prominent physician.
More and more young people in England – some as young as six – suffer from type 2 diabetes. The condition occurs when the body loses its ability to process sugar and it is most often caused by obesity.
The disease most commonly affects those over the age of 40, who may have gained weight over decades, but the high rate of obesity in people under the age of 18 has more than doubled its level among young people in five years.
Now a surgeon has warned that surgeries up to £ 8,000 may be the only way to prevent children with diabetes from suffering long-term damage.
Dr. Andrew Beamish, an expert in adolescent obesity at Swansea University, said it is best for children to undergo surgery as soon as they are diagnosed.
We need to have diabetes [in young people] Early on we need to treat it through surgery, ”he said at the UK’s Virtual Diabetes Professional Conference.
This is a much more aggressive disease and develops much more quickly than adults. We need to make sure we close the gates before the horse shuts off.
Hundreds of obese children must be offered NHS-funded weight-loss surgery to reverse diabetes, according to a prominent physician. (Inventory)
Obesity expert Andrew Beamish said obese children should undergo NHS surgery
What is type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is a condition that causes your blood sugar to rise too high.
More than 4 million people in the UK are believed to have some form of diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is associated with weight gain and you may be more likely to develop it if it is in the family.
The condition means that the body does not react properly to insulin – the hormone that controls the absorption of sugar into the blood – and cannot properly regulate blood sugar levels.
Excess fat in the liver increases the risk of type 2 diabetes because its accumulation makes it harder to control glucose levels, and it also makes the body more resistant to insulin.
Losing weight is the key to reducing liver fat and controlling symptoms.
Symptoms include fatigue, feeling thirsty, and frequent urination.
It can lead to more serious nerve, vision, and heart problems.
Treatment usually involves changing your diet and lifestyle, but more serious cases may require medication
Source: NHS Choices; Diabetes.co.uk
There were 790 people under the age of 18 receiving treatment for type 2 diabetes from a pediatrician in England and Wales in 2018/19 – up from 340 in 2013/2014, according to the latest figures from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH).
Children under the age of six have been diagnosed, and the number of people between the ages of 13 and 14 with the condition jumped by 39 percent between 2017/18 and 2018/19.
Untreated or mismanaged diabetes can lead to serious health problems, including heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, blindness, and amputations.
Treating type 2 diabetes costs the NHS around £ 10 billion every year.
But Dr. Beamish warned that common treatments for type 2 diabetes, such as medications and insulin treatments, have not been as effective in preventing the damage from this condition in children as it is in adults.
Studies show that these “first-line” treatments have stopped working for one in five obese teens within a year, and for more than half of them within five years.
Weight-loss surgeries, such as stomach bands, can reverse diabetes for up to nine out of 10 patients who undergo it – but research suggests they worked best when they had the condition only for a short time.
One Swedish study found that 90 percent of adults with diabetes who underwent weight-loss surgery within a year of diagnosis were free of the condition after two years, compared to only 40 percent of those who had surgery four years or more after diagnosis.
Dr Beamish added that there is a lot of evidence that surgery is the “most effective treatment” for type 2 diabetes, but doctors have had to “fight” to get it for their patients.
Only a small number of people under the age of 18 undergo weight-loss surgery in England every year, with 18 cases in 2017 and 11 the year before.
RCPCH numbers showed that half of people under the age of 18 who had type 2 diabetes were able to manage the condition through diet and medication to lower blood sugar.
Dr Lucy Chambers, from Diabetes UK, said type 2 diabetes is a serious, long-term condition and can be particularly aggressive in children and young adults, who are more likely to develop complications and respond poorly to treatment.
Some studies have indicated bariatric surgery as a possible option for teens for whom other treatments have not worked.
But the clear link between rising obesity rates and the increased prevalence of type 2 diabetes in young people highlights the urgent need for changes in our environment to help everyone lead a healthier life.
“The proposals in the government’s recent obesity strategy will be a start, and now we need to see these in action.”
Type 2 diabetes occurs when insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas to convert sugar in food into energy, does not work properly, or when the pancreas does not make enough of it.
This leads to abnormal high blood sugar levels, which, if left untreated, can damage organs and tissues.
Eating sugary foods increases blood sugar levels, as do carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, potatoes and grains, because once digested they degrade to form sugar.
However, losing weight, including with the help of a low-carb diet, can help reverse type 2 diabetes.