Latino Diabetes Epidemic: Fastest Growing Rates Of Diabetes Among Young Latinos

Diabetes is a major health problem among Latino youth. Young Latinos under the age of twenty have the fastest growing rates of diabetes, both type 1 and type 2, in the United States, says a new study.

Conducted by researchers affiliated with the American Diabetes Association, the study used data from the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth study collected over an eight years ending in 2009. According to the study, the number of children being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes had been increasing by about 3 percent annually, which is a 23 percent increase over the past eight years. The number of children being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes had increased by 33 percent each year, which is 21 percent increase over eight years.

Not surprising, all ethic groups showed increasing rates of diabetes over the course of the study with American Indian and non-Hispanic black youth with the highest incidents of the disease. Surprising, however, was that the rates of among these two groups that historically have had the highest rates of diabetes did not increase.

Instead, both Hispanic and non-Hispanic white youth had initially low rates of the disease that increased significantly over the course of the study. According to Dana Dabelea, MD, PhD, a professor at the University of Colorado in Denver and one of the authors of the study, Hispanic youth represented the fastest growing rates of diabetes, a finding that he told NBC Latino that he found surprising.

As Dabelea comments:

“We didn’t see an increase among traditionally high risk youth such as American Indians and African Americans, which indicates that those groups may have reached a plateau. But now, rates of diabetes among Hispanic kids have outpaced other groups both in Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes – something we’ve never seen before and indicative of something we should take seriously.”

Researchers believe that two main reasons are to blame for the increase in diabetes among young Latinos. First, maternal diabetes is a significant factor. Children of women who have diabetes during pregnancy are more likely to develop diabetes at a younger age.

Second, lifestyle choices are largely to blame. Young Latinos need to make good choices about moderate portion sizes, healthy food choices, exercise, and overall health in order to stop and reverse the quickly growing rates of diabetes among their ethic and age group. Stopping the diabetes epidemic among Latino youth may be a matter of life or death.

As Carmen Román-Shriver, PhD, RD, LD, Associate Professor & Director of Dietetics and Nutrition at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, explains:

“We have to remember that diabetes can be a precursor to heart disease – the leading cause of death among Hispanics.”

Do you think that young Latinos will be able to stop and reverse their fast growing rates of diabetes?