A balanced diet and an active lifestyle can help all kids maintain a healthy weight. But for kids with diabetes, these things are even more crucial because weight can influence diabetes, and diabetes can influence weight.
Weight issues can affect kids and teens who have type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
Undiagnosed or untreated, type 1 diabetes can make people lose weight. In type 1 diabetes, the body stops producing the hormone insulin, which is needed to use glucose, the main type of sugar in the blood.
Glucose comes from the foods we eat and is the major source of energy needed to fuel the body's functions. In type 1 diabetes, the body can't use glucose properly, so flushes the glucose (and the calories) out of the body in urine.
As a result, kids who develop type 1 diabetes can lose weight despite having a normal or increased appetite. Once they're diagnosed and treated, their weight usually returns to normal.
Excess body weight can occasionally be a problem for people with type 1 diabetes as well. Some are overweight before they develop the disease. And some may become overweight after diagnosis if they don't maintain healthy eating and exercise habits.
Developing type 1 diabetes isn't related to being overweight, but because lots of body fat can make it harder for the body to use insulin properly, overweight kids with type 1 diabetes also can have trouble controlling their blood sugar levels.
Most people are overweight when they're diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Being overweight or obese increases the risk for developing type 2 diabetes, and if someone who already has type 2 diabetes gains weight, it will be even harder to control blood sugar levels.
People with type 2 diabetes have a condition called insulin resistance. They're able to make insulin but their bodies can't use it properly to move glucose into the cells. So the amount of glucose in the blood rises. The pancreas then makes more insulin to try to overcome this problem.
Eventually, the pancreas can wear out from working overtime and may no longer be able to produce enough insulin to keep blood glucose levels within a normal range.
People with insulin resistance are often overweight and don't exercise very much. But weight loss, eating healthier foods and controlling portion sizes, and getting exercise can actually reverse insulin resistance. For people with type 2 diabetes, doing so makes it easier to reach target blood sugar levels and, in some cases, the body's ability to control blood sugar may even return to normal.
People who don't have diabetes can have insulin resistance, but they're at a higher risk for developing the disease. For overweight people without type 2 diabetes, losing weight and exercising can cut their risk of developing the disease.
Being at a healthy weight is good for everyone — parents included! When kids with diabetes reach and maintain a healthy weight, they feel better and have more energy. Their diabetes symptoms may diminish, their blood sugar levels may be easier to control, and they may be less likely to develop complications from diabetes, like heart disease.
A doctor can judge whether someone's weight is healthy by using the body mass index (BMI). If your doctor recommends that your child lose weight to control diabetes, a weight management plan may be prescribed. Even if your child's BMI is in the healthy range, the doctor can help you create a meal and exercise plan for your child.
Your emotional support can be an important part of helping your child get to a healthy weight. Overweight kids can have low self-esteem or feel guilty about having diabetes. Try to stay positive. Don't talk about feeling "fat" or "thin" — talk about being "healthy." Help your child understand that all healthy people need to actively manage their weight — even you.
And remember that kids pick up on parental attitudes about weight and eating — after all, you buy the food and cook the meals. By buying healthy foods and cooking nutritious meals, you'll provide the tools that your child needs to get to a healthy weight.
Being a good role model for your child is key. If you're overweight, talk to your doctor about beginning a weight management program so you can set a good example.
The diabetes meal plan already helps guide what your child eats, so reaching a healthy weight may simply mean adding more physical activity. Getting more exercise will make your child feel better and help with diabetes and weight control, so encourage your child to get moving every day.
Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight can be a challenge for some kids and teens, just as it can be for adults. Here are some common problems to watch for and discuss with your doctor:
By following the doctor's advice about food and exercise, your child can reach and maintain a healthy weight. Kids who reach a healthy weight feel better and find that diabetes management is easier. They feel like they're more in control of their diabetes, their bodies, and their health.
If either you need help along the way, just ask — your diabetes health care team can offer tips and advice on coping with weight-control challenges.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: August 2013
|National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases This group conducts and supports research on many serious diseases affecting public health.|
|American Diabetes Association (ADA) The ADA website includes news, information, tips, and recipes for people with diabetes.|
|Joslin Diabetes Center The website of this Boston-based center has information about how to monitor blood sugar and manage diabetes.|
|Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International (JDRF) JDRF's mission is to find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research.|
|Type 1 Diabetes: What Is It? Every year in the United States, 13,000 children are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. With some practical knowledge, you can become your child's most important ally in learning to live with the disease.|
|Diabetes Center Does your child have type 1 or type 2 diabetes? Learn how to manage the disease and keep your child healthy.|
|Diabetes Center Our Diabetes Center provides information and advice for teens about treating and living with diabetes.|
|Can Diabetes Be Prevented? Parents want to protect their kids from everything, which is virtually impossible, of course. But can you prevent your child from getting diabetes?|
|When Being Overweight Is a Health Problem A couple of pounds of extra body fat are not a health risk for most people. But when people are severely overweight, it can cause health problems.|
|Your Child's Diabetes Health Care Team When you have a child with diabetes, you and your family have a lot to learn, but you don't have to go it alone. Your child's diabetes health care team can help.|
|Body Mass Index (BMI) Body mass index (BMI) is a calculation that uses your height and weight to estimate how much body fat you have. BMI, although not a perfect method for judging someone's weight, is often a good way to check on how a kid is growing.|
|Body Mass Index (BMI) Charts Doctors use body mass index (BMI) measurements to assess a child's physical growth in relation to other kids the same age. Here's how to calculate BMI and understand what the numbers mean.|
|Diabetes Center Diabetes means a problem with insulin, an important hormone in the body. Find out how children with diabetes can stay healthy and do the normal stuff kids like to do.|
|Weight and Diabetes Weight can influence diabetes, and diabetes can influence weight. Managing weight can really make a difference in a person's diabetes management plan.|
|Weight and Diabetes Being at a healthy weight is a good idea for everyone, but it's even more important for kids with diabetes.|
|Body Mass Index (BMI) One of the biggest questions guys and girls have as they grow and develop is whether they're the right weight. One place to start is by learning about body mass index, or BMI.|
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