Sugary drinks are unhealthy food choices, advises Matthew Mathias, MD, medical director at Triangle Family Practice, a Duke Primary Care practice in Durham. When combined with a sedentary lifestyle, they are one of the main reasons why more children in the U.S. are considered at risk for obesity, and they are partly to blame for the rise in type 2 diabetes. But the prevalence of bad lifestyle habits can’t explain why type 1 diabetes is being diagnosed more frequently as well.
“We’ve also seen a 3 to 5 percent increase in type 1 diabetes cases worldwide,” says Dr. Mathias.
Several theories are being explored to explain the surge in type 1 diabetes. Exposure to a virus may damage the pancreatic cells responsible for making insulin. Evidence also suggests a connection between type 1 diabetes and early introduction of cow’s milk and solid foods in infants. “Milk and dairy products should not be given to infants before the age of one,” Dr. Mathias stresses, "and solid foods should not be started until about 4 months of age.”
Breastfeeding remains the best option for infants for many reasons, he adds, including data, which show it reduces a child’s risk for obesity.