The alarming rise in diabetes among young people has become a global health concern. No longer is diabetes solely an affliction of the middle-aged and elderly; an increasing number of children and adolescents are being diagnosed with this chronic condition.
The age of onset of diabetes in India is 10 years earlier than in Western countries, posing a greater challenge as more individuals enter their productive working phase with this risk. Further, 20% of India’s population is in the adolescent age group currently i.e. around 250 million, which is a huge number and according to a report by the ICMR, the prevalence of diabetes among children and adolescents has more than doubled in the past decade, indicating a concerning trend.
Should we be concerned?
- Urbanization and economic development have led to a significant shift in the lifestyle of adolescents in India. According to the WHO (Lancet 2019) and CNNS report (2019), 75% of teens are inactive, leading to weight gain and obesity which is a significant risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
- More people are migrating to the cities for livelihood, increasing their exposure to processed and unhealthy foods.
- The aggressive marketing of unhealthy foods and sugary beverages to children and adolescents is influencing their dietary choices contributing to the rise in diabetes.
- Lack of awareness about the risk factors and symptoms of diabetes among the youth can lead to delayed diagnosis and increase the risk of complications.
- The biggest cause is Unhealthy eating habits. There is a significant increase in the consumption of high-calorie, high-salt, sugar and fat-rich foods, as well as a decline in the consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. This has led to poor immune systems, weight gain and insulin resistance, which are major drivers of diabetes.
Can we do something about it?
The WHO clearly states that by – adopting a healthy diet, engaging in regular exercise, and avoiding tobacco – one can prevent diabetes and heart disease by 80% and certain cancers by 40%. Prevention and management of diabetes requires a holistic approach that addresses the lifestyle choices of the youth.
Embrace a Balanced Diet: A well-balanced diet rich in whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can help stabilize blood sugar levels. Fill your plate with a variety of colours and flavours from natural sources, rather than relying on processed, high-sugar alternatives.
Control Portion Size: Portion control is essential, especially in today’s scenario where everyone is having oversized meals. Know your nutritional requirements and eat optimal portions to prevent overeating and promote a healthy weight.
Prioritize Fiber: Fiber-rich foods, such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, help slow down the absorption of sugar, improve insulin sensitivity and support overall digestive health.
Choose healthy fats: Replace saturated and trans fats obtained from processed and bakery foods with healthier options like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil and fish.
Take Regular Meals: Eating regular, balanced meals and snacks can help maintain stable blood sugar levels. Skipping meals can lead to overeating later in the day, which can contribute to insulin resistance.
Stay Hydrated: Sugary drinks, such as soda and fruit juices, should be minimized or replaced with water. Proper hydration supports overall health and can help manage appetite.
Cook at home: Try cooking simple meals at home. This can help you control the quantity and quality of ingredients and you can also adopt healthier cooking methods. It will allow you to make healthier choices and prioritize whole, nutrient-dense foods.
Get on a regular exercise routine: Engage in any physical activity (running, swimming, cycling, football, dancing) for at least 60 minutes every day. This can help maintain a healthy body weight and improve insulin sensitivity.
Learn to manage stress: Activities like yoga or spending time with friends and family can distress your mind and keep you happy.
Go for regular health check-ups: Keep a check on your body weight and blood parameters at regular intervals. Timely diagnosis will help in early detection and management.
Limit Sugar and Refined Carbohydrates: Excessive sugar intake and refined carbs can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. Reducing or eliminating sugary beverages, candies, and processed snacks from the diet is essential. Instead, opt for complex carbohydrates like whole grains and legumes, which provide a steady source of energy and fibre.
Limit consumption of salt and processed foods: Minimize the intake of processed and fast foods as they are often high in unhealthy fats and salt. Excessive salt intake can contribute to high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for diabetes.
Avoid FAD diets: FAD diets which eliminate entire food groups or promote extreme restrictions can lead to micro-nutrient deficiencies, hence do not fall for FAD diets.
Stay away from substance abuse: Become aware of the health hazards of smoking, alcohol, and illicit substance use and do not try them even under peer pressure.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are of the author and not of Medical Dialogues. The Editorial/Content team of Medical Dialogues has not contributed to the writing/editing/packaging of this article.