Monkeys and Kids Can Get Diabetes, Too

Monkeys are some of the most iconic and fascinating animals in the world. While these famous tree-swinging primates need no introduction, there are many interesting things you may not know about them—including a condition they share with humans.

At the San Antonio Zoo, a squirrel monkey named Jackson is being treated for the equivalent of human diabetes. As it happens, monkeys absorb insulin much like humans do. Because of the similarities in the effects of diabetes, scientists are able to study and learn more about therapeutic treatments.

Taking Cues from Jackson the Squirrel Monkey

November is Children's Diabetes Awareness Month, a time devoted to educating communities nationwide about this condition's impact on children and their families and supporting research, prevention and treatment.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one-third of American youth are overweight. Excess weight without much activity significantly contributes to developing Type 2 diabetes.

As the pancreas works harder to make more insulin to get cells to use blood sugar to convert food for energy, it eventually cannot keep up with the need for additional insulin, and soon, blood sugar levels rise. When this happens, insulin resistance can create a risk for Type 2 diabetes. Without physical activity, the body has no better use for additional insulin. Consult with your child’s doctor if your child is at least 10 years old or has started puberty, is overweight and has any of two of the following risk factors:

  • Family member with Type 2 diabetes
  • Mother had gestational diabetes while pregnant
  • One or more conditions associated with insulin resistance—high blood pressure, high cholesterol or polycystic ovary syndrome
  • African American, Hispanic, Native American, Alaska Native, Asian American or Pacific Islander

Defying Diabetes in Kids

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body makes little or no insulin, prompting the immune system to attack and destroy the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. In Type 2 diabetes, the cells in the body do not properly utilize the insulin, and the pancreas is not making enough insulin to keep blood glucose levels at a normal range. While there is no surefire way to prevent Type 1 diabetes, exercise and healthy eating habits can help reverse or altogether avoid Type 2 diabetes. Here are a few of our healthy tips:

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables and less processed food and sugar.
  • Drink fewer sodas and sugary drinks and drink more water instead.
  • Plan and/or shop for meal prep together. Teach your kids to understand food labels.
  • Make healthy meals ahead of time and freeze for nights that you know will be time-crunched.
  • Serve smaller portion sizes.
  • Eat dinner together as a family, not in front of the TV or computer.
  • Slow the eating pace so kids can feel full (about 20 minutes).
  • Do not make food a reward. Consider nonfood-centered ways to celebrate.
  • Take a class on nutrition or healthy meal planning from a diabetes educator.
  • Set a good example for them by making healthy choices yourself.

Like exercise, healthy eating habits do not happen all at once. Give yourself a break and get started in the right direction.

HealthCare is Better Together. We hope our tips will help to encourage your family to work together toward your health goals.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

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