There is an obesity epidemic in the United States and parts of the world — especially among children. Now, we are learning about obesity's intimate relationship with diabetes.
By Mary Best
When Francine Kaufman, M.D., talks about diabetes and obesity, it's easy to hear her passionate commitment to educate parents and children about this growing problem. "I am concerned about our children," says Dr. Kaufman, who is the incoming chairperson for the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP). "I've devoted my career to diabetes in children. Particularly now, when we are at the point of an epidemic of childhood obesity and the development of type 2 diabetes in children, I have realized that to make a difference, we have to change the environment for children."
She has seen firsthand the effect of a poor diet on the body. Dr. Kaufman treats thousands of children who suffer from obesity and the diseases associated with it. She is a professor of pediatric endocrinology at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. Dr. Kaufman is also director of the Center for Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolism at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles.
To Find Out More
Nearly 21 million Americans suffered from diabetes in 2005, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). A national survey calculated the obesity rate for children at 17.1 percent in that same year. Dr. Kaufman predicts that by the year 2020 the number of people around the world with diabetes will soar to more than 300 million.
In her book Diabesity: The Obesity-Diabetes Epidemic That Threatens America—And What We Must Do to Stop It, Dr. Kaufman explains the roots of diabesity quite simply: "Our ancient genes and our modern environment have collided." Our bodies store excess calories as fat. In ancient times calories were hard to come by. Today, fast food and junk food are everywhere. Coupled with our increasingly inactive lifestyle, the result is obesity.
"Diabetes is everywhere around the world," says Dr. Kaufman, "and it touches people, whether they are the person with diabetes or the person caring for someone with diabetes. It has a global reach and a global impact. We need to come together as a global society to find a way to combat diabetes."