Talk of a rapidly accelerating diabetes epidemic has settled into our medical and public health discourse, with limited data confirming specific trends in the disease.
A new study led by Dr. Dana Dabelea, from the Colorado School of Public Health, and Dr. Elizabeth J. Mayer-Davis, from the University of North Carolina , Chapel Hill, offers our first look at recent national disease trends among children under 19 years of age. Authors studied data including more than three million physician-diagnosed cases of type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes, from five centers located in California, Colorado, Ohio, South Carolina and Washington, as well as from selected American Indian reservations.
The analysis examined whether the overall prevalence of type 1 and type 2 diabetes among U.S. youth has changed in recent years, and whether it changed by sex, age and race/ethnicity. The results published in JAMA, calculate an increase from 2001 to 2009, in incidence of type 1 and type 2 diabetes among children and youth across all racial groups. Researches determined that type 1 diabetes prevalence rose 21 percent over the 8 year period, with the greatest increase evident in children ages 15 to 19. In the past, type 1 diabetes has been linked to white children, but this study found significant increases amid black, Hispanic, and Asian Pacific Islander groups as well. Type 2 diabetes prevalence also increased 30 percent among ages 10 to 19 years of age. The rise was significant in white, Hispanic, and black groups, with no changes seen among Asian Pacific Islander and American Indian groups.
Medical experts and researchers are befuddled by the apparent increase in type 1 diabetes prevalence, as this is an autoimmune condition caused by immune cells attacking pancreatic cells that produce insulin. Researchers from the study attribute rising trends in type 1 diabetes to data acquisition, which include more ethnic and minority groups over time. They add, The increase in prevalence among US minorities documented herein is of concern, given that minority youth are more likely to have poor glycemic control, known to be associated with the serious complications of type 1 diabetes. Authors of the study also cite many different factors in explaining the increasing numbers of type 2 diabetes cases: minority population growth, obesity, exposure to diabetes in utero, and perhaps endocrine disrupting chemicals.
The significance of the report is summarized as follows: youth with diabetes will enter adulthood with several years of disease duration, difficulty in treatment, an increased risk of early complications, and increased frequency of diabetes during reproductive years, which may further increase diabetes in the next generation.
ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava had this comment: While the increasing obesity rate of the first decade of this century undoubtedly played a major role in the major increase in type-2 diabetes, the increase in type-1 is problematic. The explanation offered, better data collection, may well be the answer. As for a contribution of endocrine disrupting chemicals to explain anything, as we have noted here numerous times, that concept is bogus and completely unsupported by sound science, so we ll give that a pass.