One in 523 U.S. Kids Has Diabetes

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Nearly one in 523 kids and teens in the U.S. has diabetes, and most of them are non-Hispanic whites with type 1 diabetes.

The findings appear in Pediatrics’ October edition.

“We estimate that 154,369 youth had physician-diagnosed diabetes in 2001 in the United States,” write the researchers.

They included Jean M. Lawrence, ScD, MPH. She is a research scientist with Kaiser Permanente’s research & evaluation department in Pasadena, Calif.

“The overall prevalence of diabetes is 1.84 per 1,000 [children],” Lawrence tells WebMD.

To put that figure in perspective, she says there are “about 120 per 1,000 kids in the United States who have asthma, and a little over 1.2 per 1,000 that have cancer.”

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About the Study

The data came from doctors, hospitals, health plan databases, and other health care providers.

The study covered about 3.5 million youths aged 0-19 living in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Ohio, South Carolina, and Washington in 2001.

The researchers identified 6,379 kids and teens diagnosed with diabetes.

Diabetes was rarer in kids who were less than 10 years old, compared with older children.

Less than one in 1,000 children aged 0-9 had diabetes, compared with nearly three in 1,000 youths aged 10-19, the study shows.

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Ethnic Patterns

Non-Hispanic whites made up the majority of kids with diabetes.

“What we found is that in children less than 10 years of age, non-Hispanic white children are most affected by diabetes, more affected by diabetes than youth in any of the other racial and ethnic groups,” Lawrence says.

“If you look at the older kids, the 10- to 19-year-olds, the highest burden of diabetes is observed again among non-Hispanic white children as well as African-American kids,” with about one in 315 having some form of diabetes.

“The numbers go down from there,” Lawrence says.

Among children aged 10-19 years, “one out of 500 Hispanic and American-Indian children has diabetes, whereas about one in 746 Asian Pacific Islanders have diabetes,” Lawrence says.

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Most Common Diabetes Type

Type 1 diabetes results from a shortage of insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar. It’s the most common type of diabetes in people under age 20.

Type 2 diabetes results from the body’s inability to process or use insulin effectively. It’s the most common type of diabetes among adults.

The new study shows that “type 2 diabetes is extremely rare under 10 years of age,” Lawrence says.

The researchers found a total of 769 children and teens with type 2 diabetes -- only 11 of whom were younger than 10 -- and 5,399 kids and teens with type 1 diabetes.

Among youths aged 10-19 with diabetes, the percentage with type 2 diabetes ranged from 6 percent for non-Hispanic whites to 76 percent for American-Indians.

There are “significant differences in the burden of type 2 diabetes among racial and ethnic groups, as there is in type 1 diabetes,” Lawrence says.

Being overweight or obese increases the odds of developing type 2 diabetes. Lawrence and colleagues are working on another report that tracks kids’ weight and diabetes.

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By Miranda Hitti, reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

SOURCES: SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth Study Group, Pediatrics, October 2006; vol 118: pp 1510-1518. Jean Lawrence, ScD, MPH, research scientist and epidemiologist, Department of Research & Evaluation, Kaiser Permanente, Pasadena, Calif. WebMD Medical Reference: “Understanding Diabetes -- the Basics.” News release, Kaiser Permanente.