Low carb diets should be used to tackle childhood obesity instead of “expensive surgery”, a dietitian told a meeting held at Parliament.

Leading academics, specialists and healthcare professionals came together at the latest meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Diabetes to discuss children with type 2 diabetes, covering the available evidence, challenges and opportunities.

The event, staged on Thursday 16 May at House of Commons, heard how there were an estimated 7,000 people aged under 25 with the condition.

Not as many medications are licenced for children so they often go from metformin straight to insulin as many pediatricians do not feel confident using off-licence treatments, delegates were also told.

Additionally, only a quarter of children with type 2 diabetes are receiving vital health checks, with children of African and Caribbean descent worst affected.

Speaker, Dr Timothy Barrett, Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Birmingham, said: “NICE guidelines are very limited, we don’t know how to treat these children.” He said there was a lack of lifestyle interventions and cuts to budgets around the country.

In response, Libby Dowling, Senior Clinical Advisor at Diabetes UK, called for bans on junk food advertisements and a society where “the healthy choice is the easy choice”. She also told the meeting there should be restrictions on price promotions in supermarkets and further support from Public Health England for the sugar and calorie reduction programme.

The low carb approach was also called for as a solution to childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes. Results from Diabetes Digital Media’s Low Carb Program have demonstrated how adult participants have reduced their HbA1c, lost weight, and 26% of users have put the condition into remission at the one-year mark.

Pediatric Dietitian Nina Whipp told the meeting: “I am concerned about the discussions about surgery before lifestyle interventions, we have seen low calorie and low carb diets work well in adults and I wonder if we should be tackling that instead of expensive surgery. We have guidelines which are based on starchy carbs, not suitable for people with type 2 diabetes, and then we have surgery – we need an in-between.”

Specialist Dietitian Tara Kelly supported the comments. Speaking to delegates, she said: “I want to echo what Nina said and also ask the panel why we are so quick to discuss surgery in children. I understand it is a tool, but we need to have more tools in our tool box and need specialist centres with skilled staff who are able to offer more intensive lifestyle interventions before surgery.”

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