Research Doesn't Know What Drives Diabetes Trend, But 5 Key Findings Stand Out

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Diabetes increase in children

Researchers are baffled about why type 1 and type 2 diabetes is on the rise among children.


According to a report published, "Incidence Trends of Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes among Youths, 2002-2012, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, 208,000 people under age 20 are diagnosed with diabetes.

The study is the first to pinpoint the magnitude of diabetes across 5 ethnic/racial groups.

Type 2 diabetes, found in the study, is more frequently diagnosed in youth. New cases increased from 2002 to 2012 by 4.8 percent.

For type 1 diabetes, the increase in diagnosed cases was 1.8 percent.

"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, M.D., Ph.D., epidemiologist in CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion in a media release.

Key findings


Researchers aren't clear why diabetes is being diagnosed more frequenly in younger people. Hispanic youth appear to be more frequently diagnosed with diabetes type1, compared to non-Hispanic whites and blacks.

Though researchers aren't sure what is driving the diabetes trend, studies have shown a rise in obesity rates among Hispanic children and youth in general.

  • Type 2 diabetes among Hispanic youth rose by 3.1 percent.
  • For ages 10 to 19, there was an 8.9 percent increase among Native Americans for type 2 diabetes
  • Among Pacific Islanders/Asian youth, cases rose 8.5 percent
  • Non-Hispanic black youth saw a rise of 6.3 percent diagnosed type 2 diabetes cases.
  • Female rates of diagnosis was 6.2 percent, compared to males, which was found to be 3.7 percent in the 10 to 19 age groups.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease and not generally thought to be triggered by the same risks as type 2 diabetes. The researchers note are trying to uncover what environmental triggers might be leading to type 1 diabetes.

There are several theories about what causes of juvenile onset diabetes, including history of enterovirus during childhood, mumps, Epstein Barr virus and Coxsackie.

Family history of the disease and genetics are also thought to play a role, as are low levels of vitamin D and cow's milk given in early infancy.

The study authors concluded: "The incidences of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes among youths increased significantly in the 2002–2012 period, particularly among youths of minority racial and ethnic groups."

This article has been updated to add information about type 1 diabetes' potential environmental triggers.


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