More U.S. kids have type 1 diabetes, but researchers don't know why

December 17, 2015 by Amy Norton, Healthday Reporter

More U.S. kids have type 1 diabetes, but researchers don't know why
And study found that more are developing kidney problems as a result of their disease.
(HealthDay)—The number of U.S. kids living with type 1 diabetes has increased by almost 60 percent since 2002, and experts are not sure why.

Using a national database, researchers found that the prevalence of type 1 diabetes stood at just under 1.5 cases per 1,000 children and teenagers in 2002. By 2013, that figure had risen to 2.3 per 1,000.

The study, published online Dec. 17 in the journal Diabetes Care, adds to evidence of a global—and puzzling—rise in type 1 diabetes.

Unlike type 2 diabetes—a common adulthood disease—type 1 diabetes has nothing to do with obesity. It's an autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the cells that produce insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar.

And it's usually diagnosed in childhood.

People with type 1 diabetes have to take daily insulin injections, or have an insulin pump implanted, to survive.

It's a difficult disease to manage, and it carries long-term complications like nerve damage, kidney failure and heart disease, said Dr. Steven Griffen, vice president of translational development for the JDRF—a nonprofit that supports research into type 1 diabetes.

The fact that type 1 is growing more common means that it's increasingly important to understand its causes, he said.

Griffen, who was not involved in the new study, said the rising prevalence among U.S. kids is worrisome, but not surprising. "We're seeing this trend globally. Studies in other countries have had similar results," he said.

"As to the question of why," Griffen added, "we don't have an answer."

There are theories, he said, and researchers are digging into them.

One theory, according to Griffen, centers on the gut "microbiome"—the huge collection of bacteria that normally dwells in the digestive system. Some research has hinted that a lack of diversity in those gut bacteria may trigger type 1 diabetes in children with a genetic susceptibility.

It's thought that certain trappings of modern life—antibiotic use, processed foods and even C-section births—may be diminishing the diversity of gut microbiomes.

Researchers are also studying other potential explanations, Griffen said—such as whether certain viral infections can set off the abnormal immune response that causes type 1 diabetes.

But for now, the reasons for the rising prevalence remain unclear, agreed Susan Jick, one of the researchers who worked on the latest study.

Her team did find a positive trend when it came to type 2 diabetes: After an initial rise, the number of children with the disease declined during the latter part of the study period.

In 2006, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes was 0.56 cases for every 1,000 kids younger than 18. By 2013, that had dipped to 0.49 per 1,000, the findings showed.

That's good news, said Jick, a professor of epidemiology at Boston University School of Public Health. "We hope it continues to go down," she added.

The decline in type 2 diabetes is more readily explainable, according to the researchers. During the study period, the obesity rate among U.S. preschoolers fell, which may partly account for the dip in diabetes in more recent years.

Jick's team based the findings on an insurance claims database with information on roughly 30 million Americans. Between 2002 and 2013, over 96,000 children younger than 18 were diagnosed with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

Over those years, the number of children with type 1 diabetes rose by 57 percent.

There were also almost 3,200 kids diagnosed with diabetes-related kidney damage. And like type 1 diabetes, the prevalence grew over time, Jick said.

In 2002, just over 1 percent of children with diabetes had some degree of kidney dysfunction; by 2013, over 3 percent were affected, the investigators found.

Griffen said he suspects that increased detection explains a large share of that increase, however: Doctors may now be screening for more often, he suggested.

Jick said she thinks the findings highlight the importance of monitoring kidney function in patients with diabetes, even children.

According to the American Diabetes Association, some warning signs of type 1 include unexplained weight loss, excessive thirst, frequent urination and extreme fatigue.

Explore further: What is pre-diabetes?

More information: The American Diabetes Association has a primer on type 1 diabetes.

Related Stories

What is pre-diabetes?

December 3, 2015
According to the American Diabetes Association, an estimated 86 million Americans age 20 and older have pre-diabetes. "If you've been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, it means your blood sugar levels are not high enough to be ...

Key molecular players in obesity-associated type 2 diabetes identified

November 19, 2015
There is strong evidence that inflammation promotes obesity-associated type 2 diabetes and diabetes complications. However, clinical trials with anti-inflammatory drugs have only been modestly effective for treating Type ...

Periodontal disease predicts CAC progression in type 1 diabetes

August 31, 2015
(HealthDay)—In patients with type 1 diabetes, but not those without diabetes, periodontal disease duration is an independent predictor of long-term progression of coronary artery calcium (CAC), according to a study published ...

Dietary potassium may help prevent kidney and heart problems in diabetics

November 12, 2015
Diets rich in potassium may help protect the heart and kidney health of patients with type 2 diabetes, according to a study appearing in an upcoming issue of the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN).

Type 1 diabetes increasing among white american kids

October 27, 2014
(HealthDay)—The rate of type 1 diabetes has increased substantially among elementary school-age white children in the United States, a new study shows.

New diabetes cases among Americans drop for first time in decades: CDC

December 1, 2015
(HealthDay)—In a sign that Americans may finally be turning the corner in the fight against diabetes—and possibly obesity—federal health statistics released Tuesday show that the number of new cases of diabetes has ...

Recommended for you

Researchers study abnormal blood glucose levels of discharged patients

December 14, 2018
University of Minnesota Medical School researchers decided to delve into an area where little data currently exists. They wanted to know what happens after these patients with abnormal blood glucose measurements are discharged? ...

Researchers zero in on potential therapeutic target for diabetes, associated diseases

December 14, 2018
A recent study led by researchers in Texas A&M University's department of nutrition and food science shows how a novel regulatory mechanism serves as an important biomarker for the development of diabetes, as well as a potential ...

Does diabetes damage brain health?

December 14, 2018
(HealthDay)—Diabetes has been tied to a number of complications such as kidney disease, but new research has found that older people with type 2 diabetes can also have more difficulties with thinking and memory.

Researchers have found that incidence of heart failure was around two-fold higher in people with diabetes

December 11, 2018
Researchers have found that incidence of heart failure was around two-fold higher in people with diabetes.

Millions of low-risk people with diabetes may be testing their blood sugar too often

December 10, 2018
For people with Type 2 diabetes, the task of testing their blood sugar with a fingertip prick and a drop of blood on a special strip of paper becomes part of everyday life.

Very low calorie diets trialled by NHS to tackle diabetes

December 7, 2018
Hundreds of thousands of people will receive NHS help to battle obesity and type 2 diabetes under radical action set out by Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.