The numbers of U.S. children with diabetes has gone up, according to a new study. Surprisingly, the dramatic increase in diabetic children is not limited to type 2 diabetes, which is associated with obesity, but also includes type 1 diabetes, which is an autoimmune disease.
The prevalence of childhood diabetes shot up dramatically between 2000 and 2009. Type 1 rose 21 percent to affect 1.93 out of every 1,000 children. The diagnoses of Type 2 diabetes jumped over 30 percent in the same period, and now affect 0.46 per 1,000 children.
Nationally, nearly 167,000 children and teens have type 1 diabetes, while approximately 20,000 have type 2 diabetes, according to the author of the new study Dana Dabelea, from the Colorado School of Public Health. Noting how serious the larger numbers are, Dabelea called the dramatically increased number of children with Type 1 diabetes “particularly worrisome,” and pointed out that the new cases ultimately mean a lifetime of difficult and costly treatment as well as the risk of serious complications.
The study showed an increase in Type 1 diabetes in black and Hispanic youths. Historically, the children affected by the disease were typically Caucasian.
Funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the data is part of a broader study, the Search for Diabetes in Youth, which is a detailed examination of the condition among children. The research includes data on 3 million children and adolescents in five states — Colorado, California, South Carolina, Ohio and Washington state — and from selected American Indian reservations in Arizona and New Mexico. Researchers acknowledge that the data did not include information from the past five years. But believe, if anything changed, the rates have probably gotten worse.
The new study was presented Saturday in the Pediatric Academic Societies’ meeting in Vancouver, Canada. It was also published in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Previously known as juvenile diabetes (although it was rare in children) or insulin-dependent diabetes, Type 1 diabetes occurs when someone’s pancreas makes little or no insulin, the hormone that the body needs to control blood sugar levels and produce energy. There has been major progress in treating type 1 diabetes and preventing complications.
Type 2 diabetes is also referred to as “adult-onset” diabetes because it was unusual for children to get it. Whereas Type 2 diabetes is when the body becomes resistant to the insulin or does not make enough. It used to be a disease that developed in middle or old age in overweight or obese adults. The fact that children are now developing the disease reflects the obesity crisis and sets the children up for lifelong problems. Obesity combined with diabetes increase their risk of heart attacks, kidney failure, strokes, blindness and, eventually, amputations.
The dramatic increase in the number of children with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes is not the only escalation seen in numbers lately. In the U.S., the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes each year has more than tripled in the past 30 years, from 500,000 identified in 1980 to more than 1.5 million in 2011, according to the CDC.Diabetes now affects an estimated 25.8 million people in the U.S., or about 8.3 percent of the population, per the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, which is part of the NIH.
By Dyanne Weiss