"Ten to 20 years ago, this was unheard of. When we had a child with diabetes that child had Type 1," said Dr. Robin Goland with Columbia University.
In the last five years, Type 2 diabetes in children has doubled. Goland says her youngest patient is now just 8 years old.
"That's what we're seeing, are these very overweight children, teens and young adults getting what used to be an adult form of diabetes," said Goland.
Type 2 diabetes begins when the body develops a resistance to insulin. When the need for insulin rises, the pancreas gradually loses its ability to regulate blood sugar.
A National Institutes of Health study found that half of all newly diagnosed teens failed to maintain stable blood sugar. One in five suffered serious complications as a result.
"The first kids with Type 2 diabetes had worse cholesterol and triglycerides than these older men and women who were already having heart attacks," said Goland.
One hurdle for doctors is that the medications, Metformin and Avandia, used to control Type 2 diabetes in adults, is not working as well in children.
"Unless we take drastic measures to prevent it, this will be a huge problem," said Goland.
Family history and poor eating habits are red flags, and researchers now say how your child spends his or her day could also have an impact. A study by the Mayo Clinic shows for every two hours of TV time, the chance of developing Type 2 diabetes increases by 20 percent.
Sleep is also essential. A University of Chicago study showed when people slept less than eight hours, their blood sugar was higher and they were less sensitive to insulin.