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April 23, 2002

Diagnosis and Symptoms

Question from Northridge, California, USA:

My two and half year old year old niece, seems to be constantly hungry, and worse yet, her parents give her sweets to “calm her down”. Yesterday evening, they stopped at McDonald’s just before dinner time and then came to our house at dinner, served themselves and this toddler had adult sized servings. We heard that after they went home, she had another plate of leftovers, then later a cup of yogurt and a glass of milk. This is typical for the child every day. If she sees food, she wants it, and will cry and act up until she is fed. The baby never seems to be full and wish to stop eating.

The child is about 40 inches tall, and weighs 40 pounds. She is so covered with body fat, an adult cannot toss her in the air and catch her. I have a four year old, of similar height who is firm and trim, and I can toss her 2-3 feet over my head and catch her painlessly.

All four grandparents of the fat baby suffer from diabetes, and we want the mother to be concerned and alter the child’s eating habits. The mother thinks we are foolish. What is your opinion of this child developing diabetes while very young?


From: DTeam Staff

Your niece is substantially over the 95th percentile for height and weight for girls of her age, and there is a well established link between obesity at this age and obesity and type�2 diabetes in later life.

This form of diabetes has in fact become increasingly prevalent in children in many parts of the world where it has been linked to insufficient physical exercise and a high calorie high fat diet. There is also some evidence from animal work that maternal hyperinsulinism during pregnancy as a component of type 2 diabetes or prediabetes can effect permanent changes in the hypothalamic appetite center in the fetus which could explain the rather early presentation of this phenomenon in your niece.

Treatment is all too easy to prescribe and quite extraordinarily hard to show sustained success.


[Editor’s comment: See What You Need to Know about Type 2 Diabetes in Children.

This behavior is not normal and could be caused by a variety of physical and/or emotional problems. I would suggest that you encourage this child’s parents to have her evaluated by their pediatrician.