Kids’ hospitalization rates for Type 2 diabetes more than doubled during pandemic

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Kids’ hospitalization rates for new Type 2 diabetes more than doubled amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to data analyzed at a Louisiana hospital.

Research presented by Dr. Daniel Hsia, associate professor at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, drew from a retrospective analysis of admissions at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital in Baton Rouge, La. The study compared the rate of kids presenting to the hospital with Type 2 diabetes from March-December 2020, over the same period a year prior.

Findings revealed an increased hospitalization rate of 0.62 percent (17 cases out of 2,729 hospitalizations) in 2020 for onset of Type 2 diabetes, compared to 0.27 percent (8 cases out of 2,964 hospitalizations) in 2019. Some 23 of 25 cases involved African American patients and 19 patients were male, according to a release posted by the American Diabetes Association.

The study suggested pandemic-related lockdowns reduced opportunities for exercise while boosting the amount of time spent in front of screens. Disturbed sleep, poor diets and sedentary behavior likely increased the risk factors for Type 2 diabetes and according to study authors, “even modest weight gain over a short period of time can increase the risk for long-term consequences such as Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”

“While our study examined hospital admissions for Type 2 diabetes in children at one center, the results may be a microcosm of what is happening at other children’s hospitals across the country,” Hsia, lead author of the study, said in the release. 

What’s more, kids admitted to the hospital during the pandemic had more severe disease with higher markers of blood sugar and dehydration. More cases also prompted intensive care compared to the year prior.

Type 2 diabetes involves an improper response to insulin, in which sugar begins to build in the body, resulting in high blood sugar.  It occurs more frequently in adults and while family history, race and genetics play a role, the Mayo Clinic notes Type 2 diabetes in children is climbing due to the obesity epidemic. 

“Unfortunately, COVID-19 disrupted our lives in more ways than we realize. Our study reinforces the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle for children even under such difficult circumstances,” Hsia said.

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