The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Pediatrician talks diabetic prevention on TR Campus

By ashley johnson/reporter

Prevention is the key to solving the issues of diabetes and obesity in children, a local doctor told a TR group recently.“Diabetes is bad news for the country right now,” said Dr. John A. Menchaca, a Fort Worth pediatrician.

In Diabesity: A Life Cycle, he talked about the issue of diabetes and obesity in American children and said pregnant mothers can be the key to preventing both diseases.

“The biggest message that I need to give this group today is that prevention for obesity and diabetes starts in the pregnant mother’s womb,” he said.

Diabetes affects between 12 and 16 percent of the American population with most of the known cases being found in the African-American and Hispanic groups, Menchaca said. Almost parallel to diabetes is the issue of overweightness and obesity with 35 percent of American children overweight and 16 percent obese, he said. Overweightness affects more than half of the adult population, and Southern states lead the pack in obesity, Menchaca said.

“Bottom line — there’s a lot of problems with obesity in children and adults,” he said.

An obese child with diabetes can suffer from heart problems, hypertension, coronary artery disease or kidney failure. Diabetes is now the most common cause of new dialysis patients in the U.S., Menchaca said. 

“It looks bad, but is there any hope?” he asked. “Yes, there is hope — prevention.”

Prevention begins in the womb. Fetal programming is a form of epigenetics and a way to program the baby to have healthy attributes before it is born, Menchaca said.

“Epigenetics changes the effect of the gene but doesn’t change the actual gene. The whole concept of fetal programming is gaining a lot of traction,” he said. ”It’s a way to make changes to the unborn child that will have lasting effects throughout their life.”

Mothers who start eating protein and monitoring their fat intake can turn things around to help their unborn babies. If mothers eat a healthy diet, add a few portions of fish per week and go for a half-mile walk every day, they would avoid having to use fetal programming, Menchaca said.

The ideal pregnant mother is one who has a normal weight and eats protein with a good intake of vitamins and proper dietary fat, Menchaca said. Unfortunately, he said, many young mothers stick to their unhealthy junk food diet, and almost half the population of would-be mothers are obese. Menchaca said babies born to unhealthy mothers come out of the womb stressed with unusual appetites, which is an indication for future obesity.

“We can reprogram these babies. From birth, the baby’s brain is very plastic and can be remolded and redirected in its growth and development,” he said.

Parents have a time frame of two years to redirect their child’s appetite.

“Standard wisdom is to start your baby off with rice cereal first, but there’s no data that says that’s the best way to do it,” he said.

If babies are introduced to different veggies and fruits at an early age, they will develop a taste for healthier foods, and that will follow them throughout their lives, Menchaca said.

Parents have to work at not offering their kids bad foods in the beginning, he said. Foods like rice cereal cause kids to develop a taste for starches and fat which can lead to an overweight toddler.

TR sophomore Taylor Salazar has a 14-month-old daughter.

“She’s very picky in what she eats,” she told Menchaca. “She spits out fruit, and now that she’s older, all she wants is bread and stuff like that.”

Menchaca advised her to be persistent.

“Offer the veggies and stand back,” he said. “Keep trying. Psychologists say offer something eight to 12 times. Consistent everyday — she’ll get used to that texture.”

In regards to prevention for older children, Menchaca said parents should always present good foods, encourage their kids to exercise and maintain a healthy weight.

Donate to The Collegian

Your donation will support the student journalists of Tarrant County College. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Collegian