New research uncovers increased diabetes rates in U.S. youth

Aug. 25, 2021

Diagnosed cases of type 1 and type 2 diabetes have been surging among youth in the United States. From 2001 to 2017, the number of people under age 20 living with type 1 diabetes increased by 45 percent; The number living with type 2 diabetes grew by 95 percent, according to a report published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Type 1 diabetes remains the most common type of diabetes among U.S. youth.

“Increases in diabetes are always troubling – especially in youth.” said, Giuseppina Imperatore, MD, PhD, Chief of the Surveillance, Epidemiology, Economics, and Statistics Branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Diabetes Translation. The rising rates, particularly of the more preventable Type 2 diabetes, “has the potential to create a cascade of poor health outcomes,” Imperatore said, according to a press release from the CDC.

“Compared to people who develop diabetes in adulthood, youth are more likely to develop diabetes complications at an earlier age and are at higher risk of premature death,” she said.

Other key findings from the report:

  • The estimated number of youth aged 0-19 years with type 1 diabetes increased from 148 per 100,000 in 2001 to 215 per 100,000 in 2017.
  • From 2001-2017, significant increases in the number of youth living with type 1 diabetes were found among ages 5-9, 10-14 and 15-19 years. Those increases were found in both sexes and for each racial and ethnic group.
  • Type 1 diabetes remains more common among white youth than among youth from racial or ethnic minority groups.
  • The estimated number of youth aged 10-19 living with type 2 diabetes increased from 34 per 100,000 in 2001 to 67 per 100,000 in 2017.
  • Type 2 diabetes remains more common among youth in racial or ethnic minority groups than among white youth.
  • The greatest increase in type 2 diabetes prevalence was seen in Black and Hispanic youth, and the highest numbers of youth (per 1,000) living with type 2 diabetes were found in Black and American Indian populations.

The impact on youth from racial and ethnic minority groups may also be linked to social and environmental determinants of health such as where children live and play.

“More research is needed to better understand the underlying causes of the increases we’re seeing,” said Jean M. Lawrence, ScD, MPH, MSSA, the article’s lead author and the Director of the Diabetes Epidemiology Program, Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolic Diseases in the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the NIH.

 “Increasing prevalence of type 2 diabetes could be caused by rising rates of childhood obesity, in utero exposure to maternal obesity and diabetes, or an increase in screenings for diabetes. Lawrence said. The impact of diabetes on youth is concerning as it could be an early indicator of the health of future generations.”

These findings come from the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth Study, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

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