These days, type 2 diabetes is usually not referred to as "adult onset diabetes" since there has been a significant increase in the number of young people being diagnosed with the disease, ranging from young children to teens and young adults. Regardless of the terminology, it is the same disease. You might also hear it referred to as non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus -- also a term not used very often anymore because many people with type 2 diabetes require insulin to keep their blood sugar levels under control.
Type 2 diabetes is characterized by insulin resistance. Because the body is less sensitive to the effects of insulin, it needs more and more insulin to get the same response. Eventually, the body won't be able to produce enough.
Family history plays a role in determining whether you developing type 2 diabetes, but so too do lifestyle choices. In fact, type 2 diabetes is often considered a "lifestyle disease" because the choices that we make play a large role in whether we are at increased risk for diabetes.
What causes diabetes? In short, the risks include: family history, being overweight, a diet high in refined or processed carbohydrates, an inactive lifestyle, high blood pressure, poor cholesterol, being a member of certain ethnic groups who are at higher risk, and age (risk increases with age).
Despite all these risks, developing type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed with changes in lifestyle. For instance, one thing that helps is to minimize the amounts of refined and processed carbohydrates consumed and focus instead on fresh, high fiber foods. Even making small changes can make a difference, like baking with coconut flour or with spelt instead of using regular wheat flour. It's not an easy change -- we all have our favorite foods! -- but it's a change that could mean the difference between leading a diabetes-free life and living with diabetes. An active lifestyle with regular exercise is also very important. Exercise naturally lowers blood glucose and blood pressure, and improves cholesterol.
That's not to say, however, that a change in lifestyle is going to be enough to prevent diabetes in everyone. Sometimes factors other than lifestyle come into play and the best that can be done is to delay the onset of diabetes.
Disturbingly, type 2 diabetes is being diagnosed more and more often in children. A fast-paced, modern lifestyle has led to high rates of obesity and diabetes in young children due to high consumption of fast food meals (high in fat and calories, leading to weight gain) and little exercise (being bussed or driven to school; choosing video games or the computer over physical play outside). Managing diabetes is difficult for an adult, and perhaps even more so for children, who are forever being tempted with treats and video games and the other things their friends and peers enjoy.
"Adult onset diabetes" is no longer an accurate term. Unfortunately, the terminology might have become obsolete but the disease has not. Type 2 diabetes is a serious, chronic disease that's seen in both young people and in adults. If you are at risk, take steps now to prevent or delay the disease.