Diabetes is one of the fastest growing non-communicable diseases in Bangladesh, but the fact that childhood diabetes is also on the rise has become more concerning.
Doctors blame unhealthy lifestyle and lack of awareness for the increasing number of such patients and even the number of lifestyle-based Type 2 diabetes patients is greater than before.
In 2009, there were only 400 children in the country suffering from diabetes. But now, in 2017, the number stands at 5,159.
Out of the total affected, 4,893 children and adolescents were diagnosed and registered with Type 1 diabetes and 266 with Type 2 diabetes only at BIRDEM Hospital in Dhaka from 2009 to September 2017, according to the Diabetic Association of Bangladesh (BADAS).
The authorities at Bangladesh Institute of Research and Rehabilitation for Diabetes, Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders (BIRDEM) say they diagnose 200 children and adolescents every year.
Kamrul Huda, programme officer of Changing Diabetes in Children Programme of BADAS, told the Dhaka Tribune that Type 1 and Type diabetes among children and adolescents are increasing.
“On an average, new enrolment rate at BIRDEM is around 200 annually, and both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes rates are alarmingly rising,” he said.
“This year 466 children were registered with diabetes. The number was 705 last year,” said Kamrul. “But even if the number lowered in a year, it does not mean that the rate is decreasing because many are still out of the diabetes screening programme.”
Associate Professor of Department of Pediatrics at BIRDEM and Ibrahim Medical College, Dr Fauzia Mohsin said that Type 1 diabetes can be found in children above one year old and it occurs when any other factor triggers the auto-immune response, which attacks the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
“Type 1 diabetes is not preventable. The children will have to depend on insulin for life,” she said.
Type 2 diabetes and lifestyle
A 2016 study, titled “Characteristics of Children and Adolescents at Onset of Type 2 Diabetes in a Tertiary Hospital in Bangladesh,” has found that 58% children with Type 2 diabetes were obese, and 94% had a positive family history of this lifestyle oriented disease.
Fauzia said: “Obesity is one of the main reasons behind the increase of Type 2 diabetes among younger children. We used to find Type 2 among adolescents before, but now we are diagnosing Type 2 in younger children more because of obesity.”
A Dhaka-based pilot study, conducted in 2010 on the prevalence of obesity among affluent school children and adolescents, found that about 17.9% children were obese and 23.6% overweight.
Another study conducted in Dhaka in 2015 on the association between obesity and income group found that 88.7% children belonged to upper-middle and high-income family while only 11.3% children were in the lower-middle-income group.
“Less physical activity and junk foods are the major reasons behind obesity, which is leading to Type 2 diabetes among these children. But it’s preventable,” said Fauzia.
She suggested eating healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, and completely avoiding junk and unhealthy street foods, while maintaining at least one hour of physical activity.