Hundreds of fat children should be offered NHS weight-loss surgery to reverse their diabetes, according to a leading medic.
Growing numbers of youngsters in England — some as young as six — suffer type 2 diabetes. The condition occurs when the body loses its ability to process sugar and is often sparked by obesity.
It most commonly affects over-40s, who may have gained weight over decades, but the soaring obesity rate in under-18s has seen its level among young adults more than double in five years.
Now a surgeon has warned operations like up to £8,000 gastric bypasses and bands could be the only way to prevent diabetic children facing long-term damage.
Dr Andrew Beamish, an adolescent obesity expert at Swansea University, said children should ideally be offered surgery soon after being diagnosed.
‘We need to catch diabetes [in young people] early and we need to treat it with an operation,’ he told the virtual Diabetes UK Professional Conference.
‘This is a much more aggressive disease that progresses much more rapidly than in adults. We need to make sure we shut the gates before the horse bolts.’
‘Some studies have pointed towards bariatric surgery as a potential option for adolescents for whom other treatments have been unsuccessful.
‘But the clear link between rising obesity rates and increasing prevalence of type 2 diabetes in younger people highlights the crucial need for changes to our environment to help everyone live healthier lives.
‘The proposals in the Government’s recent Obesity Strategy would be a start, and we now need to see these put into action.’
Type 2 diabetes occurs when insulin, a hormone that is produced by the pancreas to turn the sugar in food into energy, either doesn’t work properly, or the pancreas doesn’t make enough of it.
This leads to abnormally high blood sugar levels which, if left untreated, can damage organs and tissues.
Eating sugary foods increases blood sugar levels, as can carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, potatoes and cereals, because once digested, they break down to form sugar.
However, weight loss, including with the help of a low-carb diet, can help to reverse type 2 diabetes.