Study finds large increase in Type 1 and 2 diabetes among U.S. youth

In a study that included data from more than three million children and adolescents from diverse geographic regions of the United States, researchers found that the prevalence of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes increased significantly between 2001 and 2009, according to the study in the May 7 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a theme issue on child health. This issue is being released early to coincide with the Pediatric Academic Societies Annual Meeting.

Elizabeth Mayer-Davis, PhD, professor and chair of nutrition, and colleagues with the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth Study, examined whether the overall prevalence of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes among U.S. youth has changed in recent years, and whether it changed by sex, age and race/ethnicity. Despite concern about an “epidemic,” there have been limited data on trends regarding diabetes.

“This is the largest study of childhood diabetes in diverse populations ever done in the U.S.”

“This is the largest study of childhood diabetes in diverse populations ever done in the U.S.,” Mayer-Davis said. “There are about 5,000 youth with Type 1 diabetes living in North Carolina, and about 600 with Type 2 diabetes in our state. Increases in Type 2 diabetes in all ages, including in adolescents, has been in the news quite a lot, but the increase in Type 1 diabetes, which is an autoimmune disease, is new.”

Mayer-Davis added that the reason for the increase in Type 1 diabetes is not known.

The analysis included cases of physician-diagnosed Type 1 diabetes in youth ages zero through 19 years and Type 2 diabetes in youth ages 10 through 19 years in 2001 and 2009. The study population came from five centers located in California, Colorado, Ohio, South Carolina and Washington state, as well as data from selected American Indian reservations in Arizona and New Mexico.

Mayer-Davis has led the study for eight years and is the principal investigator for the Carolina site.

In 2001, the prevalence of Type 1 diabetes among a population of 3.3 million was 1.48 per 1,000, increasing to 1.93 per 1,000 among 3.4 million youth in 2009, which, after adjustment, indicated an increase of 21 percent over the eight-year period. The greatest prevalence increase was observed in youth 15 through 19 years of age. Increases were observed in both sexes and in white, black, Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander youth.

“Historically, Type l diabetes has been considered a disease that affects primarily white youth; however, our findings highlight the increasing burden of type l diabetes experienced by youth of minority racial/ethnic groups as well,” the authors wrote.

The overall prevalence of Type 2 diabetes for youth ages 10 to 19 years increased by an estimated 30.5 percent between 2001 and 2009 (among a population of 1.7 million and 1.8 million youth, respectively). Increases occurred in white, Hispanic, and black youth, whereas no changes were found in Asian/Pacific Islander and American Indian youth. A significant increase was seen in both sexes and all age-groups.

“This study is ongoing,” Mayer-Davis said. “We will continue to look at trends over time and to study serious complications of diabetes including eye disease, kidney disease and cardiovascular disease risk factors in youth with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.”

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