MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?
Dr. Dabelea: We found that the proportion of US youth living with Type 1 Diabetes has increased by at least 21% over a period of only 8 years. This increase was seen in both boys and girls, most age-groups and race/ethnic groups. 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 US and elsewhere in the world- causing more youth to develop the disease, maybe at increasingly younger ages.
We also found that the proportion of youth living with Type 2 Diabetes has increased by approximately 30% over a period of only 8 years. This increase was also seen in both boys and girls, younger and older children, and among White, Black and Hispanic youth. We did not observe an increase in Type 2 Diabetes in American Indian and Asian-Pacific Islander youth, groups that traditionally had – and still have- the highest burden of Type 2 Diabetes in both children and adults. Several reasons for the increasing Type 2 Diabetes prevalence are possible. Most likely are the obesity epidemic, but also the long-term effects of diabetes and obesity during pregnancy, which have also increased over time.
MedicalResearch.com: Were any of the findings unexpected?
Dr. Dabelea: The extent of this increase was somewhat of a surprise. The increase in minorities, especially black and Hispanic youth, coupled with the changing demographics in the US, means that in the future more minority youth will have diabetes. Since minority youth typically have worse glycemic control, more barriers to care, more obesity, and a higher risk of diabetes-related complications, this is particularly worrisome.
MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Dabelea: These increases draw attention to the seriousness of the public health impact of pediatric diabetes, as they inform the clinical and public health community about care that is or will be needed for the pediatric population living with diabetes. At the individual level, every new case at a young age means a lifetime burden of difficult and costly treatment and higher risk of early serious complications.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Dabelea: The SEARCH study is hoping to continue to monitor temporal trends in the prevalence and incidence of both Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes, as well as in the risk of development of chronic diabetes-related complication, over time. Only by doing so we will understand the impact of potential changes in the environment in which US children are born and raised on the disease risk, the risk of diabetes-related morbidity and mortality, as well as the impact of potential programs that may be implemented – such as encouraging breastfeeding, reducing school exposure to sugar sweetened beverages, new technologies to monitor blood glucose, or even the effects of the affordable care act.