Diabetes in children is seen as a growing epidemic in a new study, according to the New York Times.
A new national study confirmed that from 2001 to 2009 the occurrence of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes “drastically increased among children and adolescents across racial groups,” the news site reported.
Type 1 diabetes cases increased 21 percent among children up to age 19, while Type 2 diabetes cases among those ages 10 to 19 rose 30 percent during the same timeframe.
Dr. Robin S. Goland, a co-director of the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, said the increases were “big numbers,” adding, “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.”
On Saturday, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published the findings, including data from more than three million children, ages 19 and under, from California, Colorado, Ohio, South Carolina and Washington, and from “selected American Indian reservations.”
Type 1 diabetes is considered present when a patient’s immune system targets cells in the pancreas that make insulin, the hormone required to control blood sugar levels, and essentially assaults them. While cases were typically linked to white children, the new report found that risks have increased for black and Hispanic youths as well, with the greatest increase found in the age group from 15 to 19.
“I don’t understand the basis for an increase,” Goland said. “There are a few possibilities, but we need to figure it out if it’s something in the environment or something in our genes.”
Study author Dana Dabelea, of the Colorado School of Public Health in Aurora, Colorado, called the changes “serious.”
“Every new case means a lifetime burden of difficult and costly treatment and higher risk of early, serious complications,” she said.
Even worse than the new diabetes study is the fact that it doesn’t include the last five years, so the problem could have grown even worse.
While we may not know what is causing such a huge increase as that pinpointed in the new diabetes study, Martin Blaser of the NYU Langone Medical Center and author of Missing Microbes, warns that the human microbiome is changing, “due to lifestyle changes and medical practices, such as the increasing use of antibiotics.”
To follow that line of logic, David Ludwig, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, tells WBIR.com that “Eating diets rich in vegetables and plant fiber encourages the growth of gut bacteria that help to break down these foods, [which might otherwise lead to diabetes].”
Eating a more processed diet, with little to no plant fiber, can cause good bacteria to decrease.
“Gut bacteria influence inflammation and the immune system,” Ludwig says. “As our diet changes and is increasingly sterile, we’re getting rid of a lot of beneficial bacteria.”
Luckily, not all recent news on the diabetes front has been bad. According to one study, weight loss might actually be capable of halting diabetes progression. However, this latest diabetes study should be a major wakeup call to parents everywhere.
What do you think is causing the huge increase in the prevalence of diabetes in children?
[Image via Flickr Creative Commons]