child eats cake out of the fridge

Obesity in children can create a myriad of problems that don’t occur until adulthood if they are not put under control. A Loma Linda University Health transplant coordinator sheds light on what those possibilities may be in the world of organ transplants and how to make sure your child has the best shot at a healthy adulthood.

Almost half of overweight children become overweight adults, according to the National Institutes of Health. Obesity in adults can then become a springboard for other health issues, some of which are caused by Type 2 diabetes. In a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers found that most adults with Type 2 diabetes were also overweight.

Shelly Greve, RN, Transplant coordinator for the Loma Linda University Transplant Institute, says Type 2 diabetes has taken a toll on the majority of patients she sees day in and day out. “Type 2 diabetes is the number-one cause of end-stage renal disease (ESRD), and hypertension is another contributing factor for chronic kidney disease and ESRD. Both diagnoses can be related to obesity, and both can result in the need of dialysis and or Kidney Transplant,” Greve says. 

Although diabetes can be caused by genetics, Greve says there are many things parents should know and can do to reduce their child’s chances of having to deal with Type 2 diabetic-related health issues in their adulthood, such as a kidney or liver damage.

  1. Obesity affects your Liver Obesity can cause liver damage because it can lead to what is called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). NAFLD can then lead to scarring of the liver. Progressing cirrhosis can lead to the need for a liver transplant. The risk factors for NAFLD are obesity, high cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes.
  2. Obesity and diabetes affect your kidneys. Obesity is a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes according to the National Institutes of Health. The heavier a person is, the more strain they are putting on their organs. Saturated fats found in foods such as bacon, french fries, fried chicken and many other fried dishes are known to increase cholesterol. Atherosclerosis is an inflammatory process derived from cholesterol deposition within the artery walls and subsequently turns to plaque that can obstruct blood flow to organs, potentially leading to many health complications, including organ failure.
  3. Changes in diet can make a big impact. A patient’s weight can sometimes be controlled by diet. Greve says even in cases where diabetes isn’t inherited, the way someone eats can increase their chances of developing diabetes. She recommends eating foods that our bodies were designed to digest and convert to energy. She also advises avoiding foods with preservatives as much as possible because they slow down the digestion process, cannot be converted to energy and instead can be stored as fat. Fresh foods that come from natural sources such as seeds, legumes, plants, vines and roots are healthy choices and should be the majority of what we consume. This is best for overall health and lowering your chances of obesity-related health issues.
  4. Exercise. Calories from carbohydrates and healthy fats such as avocados and eggs are what our body uses for energy. When a person does not burn the calories consumed from their diet, the body stores it as fat. Increased body fat leads to obesity, possible diabetes, and the path that lies ahead. Don’t just eat well, Greve says. Stay active.
  5. Changing the number on the scale slightly can get you out of the danger zone. Greve says many people can alter their path to TYPE 2 diabetes by losing 10 percent of their body fat. That 10 percent can decrease their hemoglobin A1C out of the pre-diabetes range. Once that is attained, she says the key is sustaining the weight loss to ward off the progression of prediabetes that leads to insulin-dependent diabetes. She also encourages her patients to continue the dietary and exercise changes that led to the 10 percent weight loss because it can continue to decrease their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

These are all small steps and facts that parents can keep top of mind when thinking of their children’s health. If you may be concerned about your child’s weight or diet, contact our primary care doctors by contacting Loma Linda University Primary Care at 909-558-6600. You can also schedule an appointment online at MyChart. This is one way Loma Linda University Health is bringing your health to your fingertips.