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Young people with type 1 increasingly likely to be obese, experts urge dietary changes

Young people with type 1 diabetes are increasingly likely to be obese, according to new research.
The study, which was conducted by researchers from T1D Exchange, suggested that excessive consumption of processed foods was to blamen, and urged people with type 1 diabetes to maintain a healthy diet and plenty of exercise.
The study does not suggest that obesity is a cause. In fact a dramatic loss of weight is one of the key symptoms of type 1 diabetes. Rather the problem of weight gain and obesity can develop in some people with type 1 diabetes following their diagnosis.
Traditionally, people with type 1 diabetes have tended to be underweight. This is because insulin and blood glucose management technologies were less advanced, and as a result, more glucose – and therefore calories – pass out of the body through the urine.
However, as diabetes management has improved, more glucose and calories have been retained. Coupled with the same over-consumption of unhealthy foods that affects many people in society, it has meant that people with type 1 diabetes have been affected by the obesity crisis.
Obesity in people with type 1 diabetes increases their risk of insulin resistance, severe hypoglycemia and cardiovascular disease.
The research was conducted by examining the data of 33,000 pediatric diabetes patients aged to between two and 18, using their height and weight to judge their Body Mass Index (BMI.) Of those patients, nearly 40 per cent were classed as “overweight.”
The study, which was the first to compare data of young type 1 patients from a variety of countries, also found that higher BMI in people with type 1 diabetes was closely linked to higher HbA1c levels.
The researchers blamed unhealthy diets for the rise in type 1 obesity, and urged young people to develop healthy eating habits from a young age. Not only does a healthy diet reduce the risk of obesity, it makes it easier to control blood glucose levels.
“Type 1 diabetes is extremely difficult to manage even under the best circumstances,” said corresponding author Stephanie DuBose, of the Jaeb Centre for Health Research.
“Thus, the number of young people with the disease who have the added burden of excessive weight is disconcerting to say the least. These patients are at risk for serious complications, especially as they get older.
“This research underscores the need for physicians to educate their patients about the importance of maintaining a healthy weight as part of overall diabetes management.”
David M. Maahs, associate professor of pediatrics at the Barbara Davis Centre for Diabetes at the University of Colorado, said: “The obesity problem in the US is well-know, but obesity’s effect on adolescents with type 1 diabetes is overlooked. These patients need to avoid excessive calories and get more physical activity. Addressing these issues as early as possible in a pediatric patient’s life will make healthy behaviours more likely to become lifelong habits, adopted well before the damage is done.”
Dr. Maahs suggests that more research should be done to explore the potential weight loss benefits of various treatments, including metformin and GLP-1 receptor agonists, medications traditionally used to lower blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
The research was published in The Journal of Pediatrics.

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