‘Adult Onset’ Diabetes Now Bad News For Our Young, But Researchers Also Report Good News

On the day before National Diabetes Month, as recently proclaimed by President Barack Obama, reports on type 2 diabetes research programs are being shared publicly. The first report states that more of our youth are being increasingly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The second report describes the discovery of three subtypes of type 2 diabetes, which may help science and medical professionals better combat the disease.

Diabetes mellitus, or diabetes, is just one disease in a group known as metabolic diseases, due to which a person’s blood sugar level is higher than normal. Left unchecked, high blood sugar is known to cause a multitude of health complications, effectively doubling a person’s risk of an early death. The American Diabetes Association classifies type 2 as the most common type of diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes, more commonly called adult onset diabetes, is now being tracked in a growing number of children, according to this CNN report. Diabetes of this type is made more dangerous because it is much more difficult to control in the young than in adults, the report adds.

Young Diabetic Patient Springfield (MA) Mayor Michael Albano and his diabetic son Mikey, 13. [Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/Getty Images]The results of a supporting diabetes investigation conducted by the Journal of the American Medical Association were published in May 2014, and concluded that type 2 diabetes diagnosis in the youth “now accounts for 20% to 50% of new-onset diabetes case patients.”

The eight-year investigation also concluded, “the increase in type 2 diabetes in youth is a result of an increase in the frequency of obesity in pediatric populations,” which has been on the rise since the 1960s.

“Significant increases occurred between 2001 and 2009 in both sexes, all age-groups, and in white, Hispanic, and black youth, with no significant changes for Asian Pacific Islanders and American Indians. Adjusted for completeness of ascertainment, there was a 30.5% (95% CI, 17.3%-45.1%) overall increase in type 2 diabetes.”

The entire report, titled, “Prevalence of Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes Among Children and Adolescents From 2001 to 2009,” is available for free on JAMA’s website.

Diabetes researchers have also recently disclosed a bit of good news, by reporting the identification of three subtypes of type 2 diabetes. Since diabetes afflicts people in a variety of ways, this finding is significant in that it can help patients get individually-tailored treatments, dependent on the subtype of diabetes they are diagnosed with.

The type 2 diabetes study was conducted in accordance with President Barack Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative, and looked at medical and genetic “big data” (patient electronic medical records) collected from over a million volunteers. Researchers took 11,210 patients from Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York and identified about 2,500 type 2 diabetes patients. Researchers then looked closely at those patients’ clinical data, including blood and genetic analyses, and divided the patients up into three subgroups based on their individual diabetic complications. These subgroups allowed the researchers to study diabetes more closely, analyzing the different symptoms of each patient, and comparing those with similar symptoms of other patients, thereby making connections based on various traits that had not been made before.

Diabetes patients in subgroup one were younger, had lower white blood cell counts, but with higher risks of eye problems, obesity, and kidney problems. Subgroup two were characterized with lower risks of obesity, but with higher cancer and heart disease risks. Subgroup three had higher risks for allergies, heart disease, and mental illness.

The type 2 diabetes study was lead by Joel Dudley, director of biomedical informatics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital. He said the study allowed them to look “beyond what is defining the disease,” and that it clearly shows “statistically meaningful differences between patients.”

“Not only did the clinical data tell us those were meaningful groups, but the genetics pointed toward potential biological factors that explain these differences in clinical characteristics.”

The report sheds new light on how diabetes affects people, individually, and brings hope that treatments could be created that target diabetes on a case-by-case basis instead of the current blanket diabetes treatments available today.

Generic Diabetes Medication Diabetes medicine Metformin. [Photo by John Moore/Getty Images]The diabetes research was conducted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and may be read on their Science Translational Medicine online journal (though it requires a subscription).

[Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images]