The other day, one of my friend’s 7-year-old son took a syringe and injected himself which shocked me quite literally. On enquiring, she told me that her son has Type 1 diabetes and had been using these injections to administer insulin. A rare occurrence in earlier times, the cases of Type 1 diabetes is increasingly seen among small children and teens alike due to various factors.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) during childhood is one of the most common pediatric endocrine long-term conditions prevalent. Worldwide, incidence rate of T1DM seems to only steadily raise on the graph with serious long-term and short-term consequences. Among the total incidence rate, almost half of it are prevalent in developing countries. India homes more than one lakh children with this disorder who constitute only 1%-4% of the total diabetic population.
T1DM is a grave disease in which the body destroys the cells that make insulin and hence, people with T1DM must take insulin every single day of their lives to stay alive. Insulin is the hormone that instructs cells to procure glucose (sugar) from your blood. Managing type 1 diabetes in young children is a momentous task as kids are more sensitive than adults to insulin and also experience a minimal diabetes honeymoon period before the disease hits them hard. Why do we call it the ‘honeymoon’ period in diabetes is a must-know answer which can be fetched from the website www.firsteatright.com. Adding up to all this is a young child’s emotional, cognitive, social and behavioral development that further snarls up the disease’s intensity.
Infant Formula to Pose a Risk?
A newborn baby is only fed with breastmilk until its sixth month ideally although people mostly don’t stick to this rule. Beyond this point, a child is started on infant formula along with breastmilk and in some cases where the child is allergic to lactose, the pediatrician starts the baby on infant formula right from birth.
Since a few decades, researchers have wondered whether infant formula made from cow’s milk might cause children to develop type 1 diabetes. That’s mainly because a couple of studies previously denoted that early exposure to complex foreign proteins, for instance cow’s milk proteins, has the potential to increase the risk of type 1 diabetes in young children who are at a greater risk of this disease due to family history.
In 2002, a group of researchers set out on their mission with a large-scale study of 2,159 infants who had some family member affected by type 1 diabetes and who were at a genetic risk of type 1 diabetes to check out whether infant formula did have any effect on T1DM. These infants were subjected to a study-specific formula which had the cow’s milk proteins split into small peptides or a normal cow’s milk-based formula which had the milk proteins intact. Infants were fed this formula for two months from their 6th to 8th month and during this period, were given no other formula from outside food sources. The mothers were encouraged to use the study-specific formula whenever they did not breastfeed. These kids were monitored and followed-up for a period of more than 10 years to get a clear picture on the set of children who developed diabetes.
Results showed that at 11.5 years of follow-up, the chances of developing type 1 diabetes were same in both groups and the complex protein present in cow’s milk did not raise the risk of developing type 1 diabetes in any way. The results are extremely important as it brings the controversy surrounding cow’s milk formula in type 1 diabetes development to a conclusion after more than 15 years of hard effort. This also puts us in further dilemma and clearly establishes the fact that there is no easy way to prevent type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 & Type 1
Nowadays, youngsters are also becoming victims to type 2 diabetes which is appalling as this type of diabetes is called as adult-onset diabetes. This is mainly because of increase in obesity/overweight issues due to an inactive lifestyle and haphazard eating habits. While type 1 diabetes has no solution except for taking insulin, controlling type 2 diabetes is in our hands with regular exercise and a healthy diet.
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