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Children at Growing Risk from Diabetes

A senior health official on Wednesday warned that an increasing number of Chinese children are suffering from diabetes as a result of unhealthy lifestyles.

A survey of chronic diseases by Beijing Children's Hospital involving 17,311 youngsters aged eight to 18, found more than 21 percent of them were obese and a little over two percent had type 2 diabetes.

Kong Lingzhi, deputy director of the disease prevention and control bureau under the Ministry of Health, said: "The figures reflect the trend that the number of children suffering from type 2 diabetes might soon exceed the number of those with type 1 diabetes."

Type 1 diabetes is genetic condition, while type 2 diabetes is usually caused by an unhealthy lifestyle. The latter most commonly occurs in people who are older than 40, according to medical data.

Kong said the Ministry of Health was considering conducting a national survey on diabetes for all children aged under 18.

According to the ministry, there are about 250 million people with diabetes around the world, and about 20 million in China.

Yesterday marked the first United Nations World Diabetes Day -- it had been known simply as World Diabetes Day since 1991 -- with the theme being diabetes in youngsters.

As a part of the celebrations, the Chinese government handed out 7,000 free copies of a book about the disease to teachers, parents and children all over the country.

The text was also made available online.

Yang Wenying, the book's editor and a diabetes expert with the China-Japan Friendship Hospital, said it provides answers to the key questions about how to minimize the risk of children contracting diabetes.

"Chronic diseases like diabetes and obesity were once reported only in affluent urban areas. But these days, they are becoming increasingly common in rural areas due to people's changing lifestyles," Yang said.

Guan Jie, deputy headmaster of the No 11 Middle School in Beijing, said he believed both school and family should play a bigger role in teaching children about the dangers of obesity and diabetes.

"We teach students what diabetes is and how they can help prevent it by eating a balanced diet and doing more exercise.

"We encourage all of our students to do at least one hour of physical exercise every day," he said.

(China Daily November 15, 2007)

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