Making Halloween a Treat for Kids with Diabetes

halloweenThe average American eats 24 pounds of candy every year, and most of that is eaten right after Halloween. This time of the year can be especially difficult for kids with diabetes who aren’t able to enjoy the same trick-or-treat sweets as all of their friends. Even though children with diabetes can enjoy candy, they have to be more careful as to how much sugar they ingest. It is important to integrate chocolate, lollipops and other candy into diabetic children’s meal plans to reduce the unbalance in their blood glucose control, but in small amounts.

Here are some tips to help your diabetic child enjoy Halloween:

  • Take the focus off candy by helping their child create an exciting and creative Halloween costume.
  • Before taking your child out trick-or-treating, explain to them that they should not snack on candy until they get home. Since walking a lot can alter blood glucose levels, it is best to pack a healthy snack to battle lows instead of eating Halloween treats on the way.
  • Exchange candy collected while trick-or-treating with a small toy or money. Kids might like this because with the money they get, they can buy something more permanent than candy.
  • Donate some of the candy collected to a children’s hospital or other organization. This may make kids feel rewarded for helping others.
  • If you hand out candy, choose something your kid can eat. There’s a chance you might have leftovers at the end of the night. According to the American Diabetes Association, hard candy, gumdrops, and lollipops work better than chocolate and higher-fat treats to treat drops in blood glucose levels.
  • Choose to give out non-candy treats. Halloween-themed items, such as pencils, plastic bugs, glow-in-the-dark rubber balls, and other small toys can be popular as a replacement for candy.

All of these tips can ensure that children with diabetes are able to enjoy Halloween, too.

The Five Main Causes of Diabetes in Children

According to the Center for Disease Control, nearly 151,000 Americans under the age of 20 suffer from diabetes.

While early-onset diabetes is typically type 1, the last three decades have shown a drastic increase in type 2 diabetes among children and teens. Traditionally only found in adults later in life, type 2 diabetes develops when the body becomes resistant to insulin and is unable to properly regulate blood sugar.

Below, are the five principal causes of diabetes in children and how to reverse this alarming and growing epidemic in our youth.

1. Being overweight or obese. Nearly 90 percent of children diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are overweight. Children who are overweight have a much higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Extra weight puts extra pressure on the body’s capacity to control levels of blood sugar.

2.  Lack of physical activity. Lack of exercise is one of the main causes of diabetes in children. Children need to stay active to avoid gaining weight and developing diabetes. Inactive children often have higher blood pressure and cholesterol levels than those that exercise regularly. All children should make sure to get at least one hour of physical activity each day.

3. Poor diet. Improper nutrition consists of a diet of too much fast food, sodas, chips, cookies and other sweets and fattening foods. The easy availability of fast food, vending machines loaded with candy bars and increasing price of fresh produce may make it difficult to ensure that children get all the nutrients they need. However, smart changes in diet could be the difference a child’s nutritional levels needs to prevent diabetes.

4. Genetics. Diabetes may be a hereditary disease. Having parents that suffer from the disease may drastically increase a child’s chances of developing either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. If those with diabetes have children, it is important to take special care to ensure that the child is developing healthy habits from a young age.

5. Sex and race. Girls suffer from type 2 diabetes more often than boys during their young years. Also, children of Asian-American, African-American, Hispanic and Native American heritage are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. The exact reason for these causes is unknown.

Although more children are diagnosed with diabetes each year, type 2 diabetes is largely preventable. Knowing the five main causes of diabetes in children can help parents, teachers, other adults take active steps to limit the growth of this highly preventable problem.

Vitamin D May be Linked to Diabetes in Overweight Children

Researchers suspect that vitamin D may play an essential role in the development of diabetes in overweight children.

 

According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, low levels of vitamin D were significantly associated with worse diabetes results in overweight children. Researchers assessed 411 obese children, ages 6-16, in addition to 89 children who were of normal weight. The found that 92% of the diabetic and obese kids had vitamin D deficiency, compared to 68% of those who were diabetic, but not overweight.

 
“Low [vitamin D] levels may play a role in the pathophysiology of impaired glucose tolerance in obese children,” wrote Micah Olson, MD and his colleague authors of the report.

 

The researchers found that the strongest predictors of the low vitamin D levels were poor dietary habits including: skipping breakfast, high soda intake, and high juice intake.

 

Kids with diabetes are unable to properly metabolize glucose and scientists think that vitamin D may impact the pancreatic cells, which are responsible for glucose management. Parents of kids with diabetes should encourage a proper diet, including milk fortified with vitamin D in place of soda or juice, along with plenty of exercise and moderate exposure to sunlight.