That Sugar Movement


Kids with type 2 diabetes is rising. But dietary changes can help


Data from the huge SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth study – that includes more than a whopping 20,000 participants – reports the incidence of type 2 diabetes is increasing in our children.1 We are talking a 7% rise annually between 2002 and 2012.

Until recently, type 2 diabetes was referred to as ‘adult-onset’. Now, kids as young as 3 years are being diagnosed.

Type 2 diabetes is largely preventable, yet can lead to significant health issues, including cardiovascular disease,2 blindness, amputations and even reduced length of life. This is aside from onerous the day-to-day monitoring and management, and symptoms such as depression and a poorer quality of life.3;4

Causes of type 2 diabetes are multifactorial, with familial, lifestyle and environmental factors at play.

From a dietary perspective, to reduce the risk of developing the condition here are some things to consider for you and your kids.

Reduce added sugar intake
Surprise! Too much sweet stuff may contribute to the onset of type 2 diabetes – especially regular consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. Leave the highly refined sweet stuff behind, and replace with whole foods like fruit and healthful drinks like water and unsweetened tea.

Replace refined and heavily processed foods with real foods
Any food far removed from its original state should be limited. Heavily refined oils and trans-fats should be replaced with less processed oils and healthy fats, such as olive oil, nuts, avocado and oily fish.

Fibre-less flours can be just as detrimental to the body as added sugars. Instead, choose whole foods that are low in glycaemic load, swapping white rice for quinoa, or white flour for ground buckwheat, coconut or almond meal. 

Create a healthy gut
The state of our intestinal microbiome can influence our health in a variety of ways. Recent research indicates the prevalence of certain gut bugs may be linked to precursors of type 2 diabetes. Considering our diet hugely affects which microbial populations of the intestine thrive or decline, more attention should be paid to keeping those helpful guts bugs nourished to keep the unhelpful ones at bay.

A great place to start is limiting intake of heavily processed foods while ensuring fibre intake is up and enjoying some fermented foods.

Stabilize blood glucose fluctuations
Enabling blood sugar highs followed by almighty lows increases the risk for pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes. You can manage the blood sugar swing by eating regularly throughout a day, ensuring meals and snacks are comprised of ingredients offering fibre, healthy fats and protein. This offers a slow, steady release of energy to the body and therefore avoids the extreme fluctuation in blood glucose levels and high demand for insulin production. 

Enjoy plenty of anti-inflammatory foods
Blood concentrations of inflammatory markers such as CRP, TNF-a, & IL-6 are elevated in type 2 diabetes. While inflammation has it’s role in the body – such as healing the skin of a grazed knee – we don’t want to be living in high and chronically inflamed state. Choose to eat foods that keep inflammation in check, such as leafy greens, deep coloured berries, fresh herbs and spices, and heaps of vegetables.

Chat with a pro
Overall, if you’ve concerns or a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes has already been made, please do chat with your trusted healthcare professional. They can run tests and work with you on a personalized diet, lifestyle and (if necessary) medical treatment plan to help turn type 2 diabetes around.

By Angela Johnson (BHSc Nut. Med)



  1. Mayer- Davis, EJ, Lawrence, JM, Dabelea, D, Drivers, J, Pihoker, C, & Saydah, S 2017, ‘Incidence trends of type-1 and type 2 diabetes among youths, 2002-2012’, The New England Journal of Medicine, no. 15, p. 1419.
  2. West, NA, Hamman, RF, Mayer-Davis, EJ, D’Agostino, RB, Marcovina, SM, Liese, AD, Zeitler, PS, Daniels, SR, & Dabelea, D 2009, ‘Cardiovascular risk factors among youth with and without type 2 diabetes: differences and possible mechanisms’, Diabetes Care, vol. 32, no. 1, pp. 175-180.
  3. Hood, KK, Beavers, DP, Yi-Frazier, J, Bell, R, Dabelea, D, Mckeown, RE, & Lawrence, JM 2014, ‘Psychosocial Burden and Glycemic Control During the First 6 Years of Diabetes: Results From the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth Study’, Journal of Adolescent Health, vol. 55, no. 4, pp. 498-504.
  4. Lawrence, JM, Standiford, DA, Loots, B, Klingensmith, GJ, Williams, DE, Ruggiero, A, Liese, AD, Bell, RA, Waitzfelder, BE, & McKeown, RE 2006, ‘Prevalence and correlates of depressed mood among youth with diabetes: the SEARCH for diabetes in youth study’, Pediatrics, no. 4, p. 1348.


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