The UK is seeing a small but “extremely worrying” rise in the number of children developing a type of diabetes that is normally seen only in adults and is linked to obesity, say experts.
Figures for England and Wales show 533 children and young people are now diagnosed with type-2 diabetes – up from about 500 the year before.
This is still only 2% of all child diabetes – most have type-1 instead.
The Local Government Association says it is still too much.
Diabetes is a condition that causes a person’s blood sugar to become too high.
There are two main types:
- Type-1 can develop at any age, but often begins in childhood. It is not related to diet or lifestyle, and experts are still trying to figure out why certain people are susceptible. Genetics probably play some role
- Type-2 is far more common than type-1, but is still rare in childhood. It is usually seen in adults and is often associated with obesity
The body, which represents hundreds of individual councils with responsibility for public health, believes cases will continue to rise unless bold action is taken in the English government’s awaited childhood obesity strategy.
The LGA is calling for teaspoon sugar labelling and a reduction of sugar content in fizzy drinks, greater provision of tap water in schools and restaurants, and for councils to be given powers to ban junk food advertising near schools, to be included in the childhood obesity strategy.
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, from the LGA, said: “This is a wake-up call for the nation as the government faces a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take radical game-changing action in its forthcoming childhood obesity strategy.
“We cannot afford to delay any longer.”
The government has repeatedly postponed the publication of its action plan.
The release date is now expected to be some time this summer.
A Department of Health official said: “We are determined to tackle obesity, and our comprehensive childhood obesity strategy will build on measures we are already taking, like the soft drinks industry levy.
“The strategy will look at everything that contributes to a child becoming overweight and set out what more can be done by all.”
Helen Dickens, of Diabetes UK, said people needed help to make healthier choices and lead healthier lives.
“Type-2 diabetes typically develops in adults over the age of 40, so it is extremely worrying that we are seeing more young people develop the condition,” she said.
“Although there are a number of risk factors for type-2 diabetes, some of which are out of our control, one of the most important risk factors is being overweight or obese, which we can do something about.
“That is why it is so essential that the government publishes it’s childhood obesity strategy to help make it as easy as possible.”
Data from the National Child Measurement Programme – an annual spot-check of the heights and weights of children in English primary schools – shows one in 10 four- and five-year-olds and one in five 10 and 11-year-olds are obese.