Tips to prevent diabetes in kids

Cases of type 2 diabetes in children are on the rise, and it’s more important than ever for parents to learn the signs that may be precursors to the disease. Dr. Manny Alvarez, senior managing health editor for, recently sat down with Dr. Dyan Hes, medical director of Gramercy Pediatrics in New York City to talk about tips to prevent diabetes in kids.

According to the American Diabetes Association, prediabetes is having blood glucose levels that are higher than normal – but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.

“The good news is prediabetes is reversible. Diabetes is not reversible,” said Hes.

Health experts blame the childhood obesity epidemic for the rising numbers of kids with diabetes. Hes said in her experience as a pediatrician, a lot of prevention starts with good parenting.

“It’s a lot of education, but it comes from parenting,” she said. “So if your mom's not going to stop off at the McDonald’s drive-through on the way home, you're not going to get McDonalds.”

Hes said it may be harder to monitor older children who have their own spending money, but she noted most children will listen to their doctors and take prediabetes seriously.

There are signs parents can look for if they suspect their child is prediabetic:

- Acanthosis nigricans, or soft velvety skin around the neck, particularly in the posterior area. This skin is hyper pigmented, which means that it is darker. Kids with this symptom are often misdiagnosed with eczema of the neck

- The same dark skin in non-sun exposed areas like the underarms and groin

- Skin tags on the neck and in areas with acanthosis

- Excessive drinking and excessive urination (though more common in type I diabetes)

Blood tests in children at risk for diabetes show high triglycerides, and they often have high blood pressure along with large abdominal girth.

Hes said the most important things parents can do to reverse their children’s risk of diabetes is implementing a healthier diet with fewer processed foods and more fiber, as well as  encouraging more exercise.

“You can jump rope; that’s free. You can walk the stairs instead of taking the elevator. You have to be creative,” she said.

Alvarez added: “Parents need to work with their pediatrician, this needs to be a group effort.”