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For past many years, Rakesh (name changed), a 16-year old boy who went to a reputed school, came home to have food that he ordered online. Pizzas and colas made it easy for him to concentrate on the games and television. However, he was increasingly gaining weight and a routine check-up in school diagnosed him as a prediabetic, a serious health condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke and often remains undiagnosed.

Rakesh was immediately put on regulated diet and activity routine but doctors say he is not a lone case. Prolonged intake of processed and junk food in young adults increases the amount of simple carbohydrates such as sugar in the diet and paves way for major chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure, doctors at the Columbia Asia Hospital say.

“Pre-diabetes is more like a wake-up call where one still has a chance to turn around. However, it is a silent stage and one does not get checked for this stage, it can come up only during routine check-ups that usually adults in their 30s or more take part in. Children usually have type 1 diabetes that happens due to the body’s failure to produce the insulin hormone that controls blood sugar level and metabolism. However, there is an increasing trend of young adults being affected by type 2 diabetes or are on that path – in past one year, we have received 15-16cases where minor patients have been diagnosed with diabetes which was so far seen in adults. Most of these children, like their adult counterparts, were either overweight or obese and go on to become an adult with compromised health,” says Dr. Shalini Garwin Bliss, Columbia Asia Hospital, Gurugram.

Doctors blame the high intake of junk food that is high in calories but low in nutritional value, and poor adult supervision to prevent such intake. Junk foods such as processed foods, micro waved foods, sugars, and roasted or barbequed meats contain high levels of advanced glycation end-products (AGEs), known to play a role in the development and progression of different oxidative-based diseases including diabetes, atherosclerosis (buildup of fats, cholesterol and other substances in and on the artery walls or plaque, restricting blood flow) and neurological disorders. Junk foods have few vitamins and minerals, and are usually low in fiber. These foods also contain large amounts of added sugar and are high in saturated fats and transfats – the food digests quickly, which can spike blood sugar levels and increase bad cholesterol levels, doctors warn.

“Children should be told more about the healthy alternatives to junk food. They can swap fried chips and opt forhome –bakedones that contain less oil and calories and are better for consumption in comparison to their fried counterparts.

Also need to focus on increasing the activity levels and reducing the screen time for better calorie utilization.Aerated beverages and sodas contain artificial sugars that harm body and it is better to choose drinks such aslime water, Smoothies, shikanji, coconut water, lassi etc. Choose whole grains,good sources of fiber as well as potassium, magnesium, and selenium and less of processed or refined grains such as buckwheat, and pasta. They should also take in more fiber-rich vegetables and fruits and get a more active lifestyle,” says Dr. Shalini Garwin Bliss, Columbia Asia Hospital, Gurugram.