Youth with Diabetes Largely Increasing

Type 2 diabetes cases increased 8.5% per year among some populations.

In the United States alone, more than 29.1 million people have diabetes, with more than 208,000 individuals aged under 20 diagnosed with the disease.

Type 1 diabetes is characterized by a lack of insulin caused by an immune attack against insulin-producing cells. While the cause is unknown, experts have speculated that some individuals may be predisposed to an environmental trigger that causes the immune attack.

Type 2 diabetes is characterized by the body failing to make or use insulin. This condition used to be rare among young people, but is becoming more common as this population grows increasingly overweight.

A new report published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that the rate of youth diagnosed with type 1 and type 2 diabetes in the United States is rapidly increasing.

This is the first study to estimate new cases of diabetes in youth from major ethnic/racial groups: non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks, Hispanics, Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans. The authors note that the Native American participants were not representative of their youth population throughout the country.

The SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth study included 12,244 individuals aged 0 to 19 with type 1 diabetes and 2846 individuals aged 10 to 19 with type 2 diabetes. This study was funded by the CDC and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and is the only ongoing examination of diabetes trends among youth.

The authors found that incidence of newly-diagnosed type 1 diabetes among youth increased approximately 1.8% each year from 2002 to 2012. They also discovered that cases of type 2 diabetes increased 4.8% each year during this time period, according to the study.

“Because of the early age of onset and longer diabetes duration, youth are at risk for developing diabetes related complications at a younger age. This profoundly lessens their quality of life, shortens their life expectancy, and increases health care costs,” said Giuseppina Imperatore, MD, PhD, epidemiologist at CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

The authors found that new cases of type 1 diabetes increased 2.2% among males and 1.4% among females during this time, suggesting that male youths may be more at risk of developing type 1 diabetes. However, for type 2 diabetes, new cases among females increased 6.2%, while new incidences among males increased 3.7%.

Specifically, new incidences of type 1 diabetes among Hispanic youths skyrocketed 4.2%, while the rate increased 2.2% among non-Hispanic blacks and 1.2% among Hispanic whites per year, according to the study.

Asian American/Pacific Islander youth saw the most substantial increase of new cases of type 2 diabetes per year at 8.5%, followed by 6.3% for non-Hispanic blacks. Hispanic youth were observed to have a modest increase of 3.1% per year, while whites only had an increase of 0.6%.

Through numerous NIH-funded studies, investigators are searching for approaches to delay, prevent, and treat diabetes.

“These findings lead to many more questions,” said Barbara Linder, MD, PhD, senior advisor for childhood diabetes research at NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. “The differences among racial and ethnic groups and between genders raise many questions. We need to understand why the increase in rates of diabetes development varies so greatly and is so concentrated in specific racial and ethnic groups.”