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Weight loss cured diabetes in three year old – a message to us all

The case of a three-year-old girl in the US whose type 2 diabetes reversed after weight loss is encouraging news for doctors and the public (children and adults) at large, writes Dr William Tigbe, Clinical Lecturer, Warwick Medical School, Statistics & Epidemiology, Health Science.

"Diabetes is excess blood sugar and a long-term medical condition with many complications on many organs of the body. Most children are diagnosed with type 1, a condition where the immune system mistakenly attacks cells responsible for blood sugar control. This is not related to lifestyle.

"Type 2 diabetes is not commonly seen in children. It is closely associated with excess body fat (obesity) and unhealthy diet and lack of exercise play a major role in the condition. The three year old child weighed 35 kg (5.5 stone) when she saw specialists. She was given treatment and her family improved her diet and the amount of exercise she took. Only six months after diagnosis the girl had lost nearly 9 kg (1.4 stone). She no longer needed medication and her blood sugars returned to normal.

"Type 2 diabetes is increasing across the world, fuelled in part by a rising tide of obesity. The fact is that an increasing waistline means you are storing up health problems for the future. The health complications involve many organs and include heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, fertility problems and leg ulcers. Controlling blood sugar levels with medication only helps delay complications but is expensive. The NHS spends an estimated £14 billion pounds a year on treating diabetes and its complications.

"The fact that this child's blood sugars returned to normal after she lost weight further confirms that her diabetes was obesity related but more importantly that we can change our risk by changing our lifestyle. It is therefore important to stick to the public health messages of keeping a health weight, eating a healthy diet and being physical active."

For further details please contact Nicola Jones, Communications Manager, University of Warwick 07824 540863 or