UAB says Type 2 diabetes spiked among Alabama children during the pandemic

Published: Sep. 28, 2022 at 8:13 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - A new study from UAB shows cases of Type 2 diabetes spiked during the pandemic. That research indicates that boys, and those enrolled in Medicaid, are disproportionately affected by the disease.

UAB compared Type 2 diabetes cases from March of 2017 to March of 2021. Researchers found that new pediatric cases of diabetes nearly doubled in that time.

Dr. Ambika Ashraf with Children’s of Alabama said prior to the coronavirus pandemic, they were seeing an average monthly rate of about 11 new diabetes diagnoses among children.

But cases jumped during the pandemic to about 19 a month.

She said the increase is alarming.

“These are staggering numbers. We’re talking about young children and adolescents who never had to deal with Type 2 diabetes. So, what is frightening is these patients have long-term diabetes. It’s worrisome that…what will be the life expectancy if we do not take care of this problem right now?” Dr. Ashraf explained.

Pediatric Type 2 diabetes happens when your body doesn’t produce enough insulin to regulate your blood sugar levels and if not properly treated, doctors said the disease can cause damage to your nervous, immune, and circulatory systems.

Often referred to as a “disease of poverty,” researchers discovered a link to the increase in cases among Medicaid-enrolled youth during the pandemic.

“There were no other external activities, physical activity, food insecurity, access to vegetables and other fresh food. Most likely they have more consumption of processed foods, simple sugars,” Dr. Ashraf said.

Researchers also found that boys were disproportionately diagnosed during this time period.

“During the pandemic, boys had increased incidence of Type 2 Diabetes and this we attribute perhaps due to reduced physical activity because most of the boys had significant team sports and they didn’t have any of that going on,” Dr. Ashraf explained.

Dr. Ashraf said another contributing factor is the fact that fewer people were going to the doctor during the pandemic.

She said it’s possible that many of these cases could have been caught early and treated with routine screenings.

She says prevention is key, stressing the importance of having a healthy diet, monitoring your weight, and doing regular physical activity.


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