Hereditary Risk: Medium to High
Most Vulnerable: It depends on the type. A child whose dad has type 1 (also known as insulin-dependent or juvenile diabetes) has a one in 17 chance of inheriting the disease. But if his mom has type 1--and was under age 25 when he was born--the child's risk is one in 25. If she gave birth after age 25, the child's risk slips down to one in 100. However, if both parents have type 1, the risk can be as high as one in four. Type 2 (the form that's linked to weight) has a stronger genetic component. If one parent has type 2, the child's risk is between one in seven and one in 13, but with two parents, the risk is one in two. A family history of type 2, however, only seems to matter if a child is also overweight, says Dr. Bachman. In fact, the number of kids with type 2 (once called adult-onset diabetes) is now skyrocketing because of the childhood- obesity epidemic. While Caucasians have the highest incidence of type 1 diabetes, type 2 is most common in African Americans and Latinos. Both types increase the risk of heart disease, kidney disease, nerve problems, and impaired vision.
Best Defenses: Some research suggests that breastfeeding and not introducing solids until a baby is 6 months old may slightly reduce the risk of type 1, but preventive strategies have a greater impact on type 2. Make sure your child is physically active and eats a diet rich in fruits, veggies, whole grains, and "good" vegetable oils like olive and canola. Some experts advise limiting refined starches like potatoes and white bread in kids at risk. A blood test to detect type 2 is recommended after age 10 for kids who are overweight or have a family history.