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Study: Prevalence of diabetes in U.S. children has grown significantly since 2001

Study: Prevalence of diabetes in U.S. children has grown significantly since 2001
Researchers say the number of children and teens diagnosed with diabetes in the United States has surged since 2001, with a combination of higher awareness, increased screening and obesity as the most likely reasons. Photo by peejhunt/Pixabay

Aug. 24 (UPI) -- The number of children with Type 2 diabetes in the United States increased by more than 50% between 2001 and 2017, as efforts to increase public awareness of the disease also rose, an analysis published Tuesday by JAMA found.

The prevalence of Type 1 diabetes, which is sometimes called juvenile diabetes, grew by nearly 60% over the same period, the data showed.

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Children in communities of color drove the rise in Type 2 diabetes prevalence, the researchers said.

They linked increased prevalence of diabetes to increases in awareness -- which likely triggered different screening practices -- and higher incidence of obesity among children and teens, according to the study.

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"Diabetes in youth remains a major public health challenge [and] it is a lifelong chronic disease that requires daily management," co-author Jean M. Lawrence told UPI in an email.

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"People with diabetes are at increased risk of complications, including diabetic kidney disease, eye disease and nerve disease," said Lawrence, a project scientist with the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases in Bethesda, Md.

More than 34 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, both of which affect the ability of the human digestive system to process sugars, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates.

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Children who develop Type 1 diabetes, which is the far less common form, typically do so after inheriting one or more risk factors -- including some genetic mutations -- for the condition from both parents, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Symptoms of Type 1 diabetes typically surface in adolescence, the association says.

Although Type 2 diabetes also runs in families, its symptoms are triggered by lifestyle habits such as being overweight or obese and having poor dietary habits, the group says.

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No cure exists for either form of the disease, but its symptoms can be managed -- and, in some cases, prevented -- by maintaining a healthy weight and eating a well-balanced diet, according to the association.

For this analysis, Lawrence and her colleagues estimated the national prevalence of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes from 2001 through 2017, using data on diagnosed cases in four geographic regions of the United States, a large private health insurance plan and select Native American reservations.

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Among those age 19 and younger, 7,759 of every 3.61 million people in the general population had Type 1 diabetes in 2017, the most recent year with data available, up from 4,958 per 3.35 million in the general population in 2001, the data showed.

Over the same period, the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes among young people age 10 to 19 grew to 1,230 for every 1.85 million people in the general population from 588 per 1.73 million in the general population, the researchers said.

From 2001 to 2017, the number of youth under age 20 nationally with Type 1 diabetes increased by 45%, and the number of those age 10 to 19 with Type 2 diabetes grew by 95%, according to Lawrence.

Although Type 1 diabetes is more common among White people, Black and Hispanic children saw the highest increases in diagnosed cases of the disease during the study period, at more than 70% and 60%, respectively.

Similarly, rates of Type 2 diabetes more than doubled among Black and Hispanic children from 2001 to 2017, while increasing by less than 50% among White children, the data showed.

"It is important for parents and caregivers to be aware of possible symptoms, family history of diabetes and risk factors that they may be able to reduce by adopting a healthy diet, being physically active and achieving and maintaining a healthy weight," Lawrence said.

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"These are important for the whole family and not just for youth at risk for diabetes," she said.

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