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  1. ITV Report

Fears over childhood obesity 'time bomb'

More than 600 children and young people in Wales and England have been treated for Type 2 diabetes, prompting concern about the "time bomb" of childhood obesity.

Fears over childhood obesity 'time bomb' Credit: Chris Radburn/PA Wire/PA Images

Some 621 children and young people under 25 received care for Type 2 diabetes in paediatric diabetic units in Wales and England in 2015/16, of which 78.5% were also obese.

That compares to 545 people in 2014/15, according to an audit by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH).

Fifteen children with the condition were aged between five and nine last year.

It is believed that the true total could be higher as the RCPCH audit only covered those being treated in hospital units rather than by their GP.

These figures show a hugely disturbing trend in the increasing number of children and teenagers being treated in Paediatric Diabetes Units for Type 2 diabetes, a condition normally only associated with adults.

"Obesity is usually linked with major health conditions later on in life, but already we are seeing the devastating consequences at an early age.

"Ahead of the first anniversary of the childhood obesity plan, this highlights the need to take urgent action on this major public health time bomb."

– Councillor Izzi Seccombe, Local Government Associaiton

The Local Government Association have warned that cuts to council public healths grants were impacting on their ability to fight childhood obesity.

A control device for an insulin pump Credit: Rolf Vennenbernd/DPA/PA Images

Type 2 diabetes, which is most common in adults, occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin to regulate its blood sugar levels, and can be linked to lifestyle factors such as obesity.

The charity Diabetes UK say it's 'shocking' that children are having to struggle with a preventable condition:

It is extremely worrying that more young people are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, especially as we know that for nearly 80% obesity is the likely cause for developing the condition.

"Type 2 diabetes can lead to devastating complications in adults, like heart disease, kidney failure and blindness and it seems to be even more aggressive in children, who develop high blood pressure and high cholesterol even quicker.

"Not only that, but the diagnosis can have a big impact on a child's psychological health.

"Some of the risk factors for Type 2 diabetes are out of our control, but we can do something about being overweight or obese which is one of the most significant risk factors.

"It's shocking that children are having to struggle with a condition that could have been prevented."

– Libby Dowling, Diabetes UK

The Welsh Government say diabetes care for children and young people in Wales is improving, and that the risk of future complications have been reduced significantly:

“Tackling obesity for children and people of all ages is a major challenge to all governments in the developed world. It requires joint action from a wide range of organisations from the public, private and voluntary sectors and from individuals themselves.

“Recent data from the Child Measurement Programme show levels of over-weight and obesity in reception year children continue to level off, with most children achieving a healthy weight.

“We have recently committed to producing an Obesity Strategy and continue to take a preventative approach with a focus on the early years, through our Healthy Child Wales programme and Public Health Wales’ 10 steps to a Healthy Weight programme.”

“For those children already living with Type 2 diabetes we will continue to work with the NHS through the national diabetes plan to improve further. Health boards will be looking at their results and working hard to ensure all children and young people receive all key care processes and treatment targets.”

– Welsh Government spokesperson

Meanwhile England's Department of Health said it had a "clear and comprehensive" commitment to tackling childhood obesity. "To halt this trend in future, we are delivering what public health experts call the world's most ambitious plans on childhood obesity and diabetes prevention," a spokesman said.

"We have introduced a soft drinks industry levy as well as an extensive sugar reformulation programme - these are already delivering results: in the past year Nestle, Lucozade Ribena Suntory, Tesco, Waitrose, Kellogg's and Sainsbury's have all committed to cutting sugar in their products."