The rate has tripled in the last five years, according to the Changing Diabetes in Children Programme of the BIRDEM hospital.
“This is alarming. We are getting type 2 diabetes in children as young as eight years old,” Dr Bedowra Zabeen, a consultant of the Programme, told bdnews24.com on Wednesday, ahead of the World Health Day.
The Day is themed on beating diabetes.
Children are usually diagnosed with type 1, a condition when the body does not produce insulin. But type 2 diabetes is related to lifestyle and diet.
Dr Zabeen, who is also a paediatric endocrinologist, said they had also found a large number of school students overweight and obese, symptoms that are linked to type 2 diabetes.
Ahead of the health day, the WHO warned that in South Asian countries including Bangladesh, diabetes has reached “epidemic” proportions and is expected to further increase in the coming years.
Sedentary lifestyles coupled with sugary, salty and fatty diets rich in refined carbohydrates are driving the epidemic.
The International Diabetes Federation last year listed Bangladesh in the top 10 diabetic burden countries of the world with an estimated 7.1 million people living with the disease. The number will hit 13.6 million by 2040, if the trend continues.
Dr Zabeen said that in their hospital setting they diagnosed 115 new diabetic children in 2010 and four percent of them were suffering from type 2 diabetes.
In 2015, the number of newly diagnosed children rose to 419, of which 13 percent were found with type 2 diabetes.
She said parents are much more aware now than before about the type 1 diabetes and that’s why the hospital was getting more diabetic children every year.
“Even the complication due to delayed detection of type 1 diabetes has declined to around 2 percent from 16 percent five years ago.
“But people are not aware of type 2 diabetes in children,” she said, suggesting screening of children 10 years old and above who have risk factors.
Those include those who are overweight or obese, those whose mothers suffered diabetes during pregnancy, those who have a family history of diabetes, and those with less physical activity.
“Type 2 diabetes can remain asymptomatic. So screening is a must for the children.”
Dr Zabeen said the lifestyle change campaign must start from schools.
“We found 23 percent girls overweight and 14 percent obese in a Faridpur district school. The rate will be much higher if we can study English medium schools in Dhaka, reports bdnews24.com