The number of children and teenagers with Type 2 diabetes has risen 14 per cent in a single year amid a “hugely disturbing trend” in youth obesity.
New figures reveal more than 600 young people were suffering from the condition last year, the majority of whom are aged 15 to 19.
The data from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) also showed that eight in ten of those with the illness, which was unheard of among children 18 years ago, were clinically obese.
These figures show a hugely disturbing trend
Local Government Association
It was published ahead of the first anniversary of the Government’s childhood obesity plan, which was criticised for being too lenient on the manufacturers of unhealthy food and drink aimed at children.
Experts have warned, however, that the true number of children and teenagers with Type 2 diabetes is likely to be far higher, as the figures only include patients treated in specialist paediatric services.
Black and minority ethnic young people made up a disproportionately large number - nearly half - of the total receiving care for the condition, the data revealed.
Across all ethnic groups, 243 of the diabetes sufferers were aged 10 to 14, 359 aged 15 to 19, and there were 15 aged between five and nine.
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, from the Local Government Association, said: “These figures show a hugely disturbing trend in the increasing number of children and teenagers being treated in Paediatric Diabetes Units for Type 2 diabetes, a condition normally only associated with adults.
“Obesity is usually linked with major health conditions later on in life, but already we are seeing the devastating consequences at an early age.
“It is vital that the measures in the childhood obesity plan improve the health of young people, and can help parents make more informed choices about the eating habits and lifestyles of their children.”
Unlike Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 is largely preventable and is closely linked to lifestyle, such as unhealthy eating or lack of exercise.
The first cases of Type 2 diabetes in children were diagnosed in overweight girls of Asian ethnic origin in 2000 and first reported in white adolescents in 2002.
Data from the National Child Measurement Programme, carried out in schools and funded by councils, shows 9.3 per cent of reception children and 19.8 per cent of those in year 6 were obese in 2015/16.
Dr Justin Warner, from the RCPCH, said: “Obesity is major public health threat and there needs to be action at all levels to reverse the trend.
“The Soft Drinks Industry Levy – or sugar tax – is a positive step towards reducing the amount of sugar in the nation’s diet .”
Libby Dowling, Senior Clinical Advisor for Diabetes UK, said: “It is extremely worrying that more young people are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, especially as we know that for nearly 80 per cent obesity is the likely cause for developing the condition.
"Type 2 diabetes can lead to devastating complications in adults, like heart disease, kidney failure and blindness and it seems to be even more aggressive in children, who develop high blood pressure and high cholesterol even quicker.
"Not only that, but the diagnosis can have a big impact on a child’s psychological health."
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “To halt this trend in future, we are delivering what public health experts call the world’s most ambitious plans on childhood obesity and diabetes prevention.
“Our commitment to tackling obesity is clear and comprehensive. We have introduced a soft drinks industry levy as well as an extensive sugar reformulation programme – these are already delivering results: in the past year Nestle, Lucozade Ribena Suntory, Tesco, Waitrose, Kellogg’s and Sainsbury’s have all committed to cutting sugar in their products.”