The incidence of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes has increased drastically among children and adolescents, The New York Times reported.
After analyzing incidence data collected from 2001 to 2009, researchers found a 21 percent increase in Type 1 diabetes among children up to age 19 and a 30 percent increase in Type 2 diabetes among children ages 10 to 19.
“In my career, Type 1 diabetes was a rare disease in children, and Type 2 disease didn’t exist. And I’m not that old,” Dr. Robin S. Goland, co-director of the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, told the New York Times. Goland was not involved in the research.
The nationally representative study included data from more than three million children under the age of 20 in five states — California, Colorado, Ohio, South Carolina and Washington — as well as from selected Native American reservations.
Researchers found that Type 1 diabetes, which causes the patient’s immune system to attack insulin-making cells in the pancreas, has increased among black and Hispanic youths. Historically, the disease mostly affected white children. These findings are worrisome because minority youths are less likely to control their high blood sugar, which could lead to complications like eye disease and heart disease, researchers noted.
“I don’t understand the basis for an increase,” said Goland. “There are a few possibilities, but we need to figure it out if it’s something in the environment or something in our genes.”
Type 2 diabetes is thought to be brought on by genetic predisposition to poor insulin action and secretion, which is often worsened by obesity and inactivity. The new data saw increases among black, white and Hispanic children, but not among Asian-Pacific Islander and Native American children.
Researchers note these increases will affect public health as more children enter adulthood with an increased risk of complications — and diabetes is much harder to treat in children than adults. Plus, younger patients still have their reproductive years ahead of them.
“Diabetes in pregnancy is a risk factor for diabetes in the next generation,” lead study author Dr. Dana Dabelea, professor of epidemiology and pediatrics at the Colorado School of Public Health, told The New York Times.
The research was published in Journal of the American Medical Association.