Diabetes rates surging among American children

June 14, 2012

The prevalence of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes has increased substantially among American children over the past decade, new research says.

The prevalence of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes has increased substantially among American children over the past decade, new research says.

Investigators reported the preliminary findings at the 72nd Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) in Philadelphia.

The SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth study documented the number of children and adolescents younger than 20 years who were diagnosed with diabetes in 5 geographically dispersed populations in the United States. The prevalence of type 2 diabetes increased by 21% from 2001 to 2009; the prevalence of type 1 diabetes grew by 23%.

Although blacks and American Indians still have the highest prevalence of type 2 diabetes in all age groups, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes among non-Hispanic white and Hispanic children also increased over time.

Researchers suggest that potential triggers for the increase in type 1 diabetes are less frequent infant exposure to viruses and bacteria necessary for immune system maturation; changes in the environment that promote faster growth and more weight gain early in life; overloading infants’ beta cells to provoke an autoimmune attack; and changes in newborn diets.

The surge in early onset type 2 diabetes is believed to be the result of the obesity epidemic in children as well as fetal overnutrition, in which the developing fetus is exposed to maternal obesity and diabetes, they say.

The consequences of the increase in diabetes prevalence among children are signs of early diabetes complications. The researchers note that many children and adolescents with diabetes already show signs and symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. Also, children with type 2 diabetes have an increased prevalence of albuminuria, a marker of early kidney damage.

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