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"Type 2 diabetes is one of those diseases where you can curb progression if you identify it early enough and make changes to your diet and lifestyle" ... Stephen Higgs, chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Association. Photo: Michael Whitehead

AUSTRALIAN children should be tested for high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes to ''shock'' them into healthier lifestyles and curb soaring childhood obesity levels.

Health groups in the United States have recommended children as young as 11 be tested for high cholesterol and children as young as nine screened for type 2 diabetes if they are in an at-risk group.

Australian doctors are increasingly seeing type 2 diabetes - which is usually associated with ageing - among teenagers.

The president of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Steve Hambleton, supported the idea of screening as it may shock young people and their parents into adopting healthier lifestyles.

''About 25 per cent of Australian children are overweight or obese so potentially that is a lot of children who are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes or high cholesterol,'' he said. ''We are seeing type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol in younger and younger age groups.

''I think we should start looking at appropriate screening measures for young people.

''The shock value of knowing they have high cholesterol or type 2 diabetes might be enough to spur them and their parents into making some dietary changes.''

A study of Australian children published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health last month found children as young as six had high levels of cholesterol.

High cholesterol and type 2 diabetes can be curbed by adopting healthier eating habits and being more active.

According to the chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Stephen Higgs, changes could be made earlier if children knew they were at risk.

''Type 2 diabetes is one of those diseases where you can curb progression if you identify it early enough and make changes to your diet and lifestyle,'' he said. ''It actually responds very efficiently to preventative strategies such as consuming a low GI diet.''

Low GI refers to a food's ranking on the glycaemic index, which measures the effect of a food on blood glucose levels. Foods that rank high on the index produce higher levels of glucose after meals. Low-GI foods produce a slower and steadier rise in the blood-glucose level, leaving a feeling of fullness for longer.