Thanks to TV shows like “The Biggest Loser”, counting carbs is on its way to becoming a regular American pastime. Newly released figures are also showing that diabetes is quickly becoming part of American culture and more people should be worried about it.

IMG_8010

Sweets are big contributors to the disease

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention* found that on average almost one third of U.S. teens with diabetes are unaware that they have it. The data showed that “about 0.8 percent of the teens surveyed had diabetes, and of these, nearly 29 percent didn’t know they had the condition.”

A quick internet search reveals that diabetes often has no symptoms, and even the few that are listed such as frequent urination and thirst could be seen as trivial. Diabetes is dangerous because of the strain it puts on our bodies which puts people with diabetes at a much higher risk for mortal complications such as liver failure, heart attack, and stroke.

To put more candidly, the findings reveal that a third of teens who are facing these deadly complications are completely in the dark about it and therefore unable to combat it. In turn they showcase the importance of teaching America’s youth about healthy eating habits and the consequences of neglecting our bodies.

”Type 2 diabetes is preventable by eating a healthy diet that includes lots of fruits and veggies!” says Amber Stott, founder of the Sacramento-based Food Literacy Center. “It’s critical to teach kids the habit of eating their veggies at a young age, because eating habits form early.”

In accordance with Stott’s advice, another study** published in the Health economics journal found that by rewarding or ‘bribing’ kids to eat fruits and veggies, the number of kids who ate at least one serving per day doubled.

“Vegetables protect us from many diet-related diseases. Eating veggies is like brushing your teeth. We don’t wait until our kids have a cavity to teach them to brush their teeth–we teach them early so they don’t get cavities in the first place,” said Stott. “This same thinking should be considered with eating vegetables. By doing it early–and often–we’re protecting our kid’s good health so they don’t develop health problems later in life.”

Even after the rewards ceased for eating fruits and veggies, the children continued to eat almost double the fruits and veggies they had previously, proving that good habits can die hard too.

These studies reveal two things: one, to slow the diabetes epidemic action must be taken to correct the poor eating habits that our country has developed, and two, there are feasible ways of doing so, such as bribing kids.

*The CDC study noted that the tests could not confirm whether the teens that showed positive had type 1 or type 2 diabetes, only the latter of which is preventable; as well as the fact that only one round of blood tests leaves some room for overestimation as to the results.

**The Health Economics study noted that rewarded behavior can lead to a slight lack of motivation to perform the rewarded behavior purely through personal motivation in the future.