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Diabetes a Major Problem for U.S. Kids, Study Shows

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It’s widely known that the United States is dealing with a serious diabetes epidemic. But the disease’s impact on children is somewhat less well known. Now, a new report shows that diabetes rates among U.S. children are rising at an alarming pace.

The report, which is based on research completed by the Colorado School of Public Health in Aurora, Colorado, finds that the prevalence of type 1 diabetes among children rose an astounding 21 per cent between 2001 and 2009. Even more shocking was the surge in type 2 diabetes, which rose 30.5 per cent over that same period. The report found that the growth of diabetes affected boys and girls equally.

Unsurprisingly, the Colorado health researchers behind the study were stunned and have yet to figure out exactly what is causing the rise in diabetes. That said, lead researcher Dr. Dana Dabelea and her team offered several theories that might explain the trend.

“While we do not completely understand the reasons for this increase, since the causes of type 1 diabetes are still unclear, it is likely that something has changed in our environment, both in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world, causing more youth to develop the disease, maybe at increasingly younger ages,” Dabelea said.

“Most likely is the obesity epidemic, but also the long-term effects of diabetes and obesity during pregnancy, which have also increased over time.”

Another important finding: diabetes is now affecting children of all races, and not just affluent whites.

“Historically, type 1 diabetes has been considered a disease that affects primarily white youth,” the report notes. “However, our findings highlight the increasing burden of type 1 diabetes experienced by youth of minority racial/ethnic groups as well.”

Dabalea’s study involved examining data on more than three million U.S. children and adolescents based in several states, including California, Colorado, Ohio, South Carolina, Washington state, Arizona, and New Mexico. The Colorado researchers’ report will be published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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