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Youth Diabetes Rates on the Rise, Especially Among Minorities

Christina Mattina
A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine finds that the incidence of diabetes is trending upwards among youth, particularly for racial and ethnic minorities.
A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine finds that the incidence of diabetes is trending upwards among youth, particularly for racial and ethnic minorities.

The research used data from the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth study, which was funded by the CDC and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). According to a press release from the CDC announcing the findings, it was the first ever study to analyze trends in new type 1 diabetes (T1D) and type 2 diabetes (T2D) cases among US youth under age 20 in 5 ethnic groups: non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks, Hispanics, Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans.

From 2002-2003 to 2011-2012, the unadjusted incidence of T1D cases rose significantly by about 1.4% per year, but rates varied by demographic characteristics. For instance, new cases increased much more among boys than girls. After adjusting for age, sex, and race or ethnic group, the researchers found a 1.8% relative annual increase in T1D incidence. They also found that Hispanic youths had a significantly higher increase in new T1D cases per year (4.2%) compared with white youths (1.2%)

When looking at unadjusted T2D incidence, the researchers observed a 7.1% increase in new cases each year among youths aged 10 to 19. After adjusting for demographics, they found that white youths had a significantly lower increase in incidence compared with each of the 4 other ethnic or racial groups. In other comparisons, Native Americans had a significantly higher average increase in incidence rates at 8.9% than Hispanics at 3.1%, but the CDC press release cautioned that the sample of Native American youths in this study was not representative of all Native American youths nationwide.

According to the study authors, the findings, particularly those concerning T1D, indicate that racial and ethnic minorities are shouldering most of the burden of increasing youth diabetes rates. As such, the results “highlight the critical need to identify approaches to reduce disparities among racial and ethnic groups.”

The study noted that obesity had increased among Hispanic girls and black boys from 2003 to 2012, but had not increased for American youths overall. Along with further research on insulin resistance in children of different races and ethnicity, the researchers suggested that these disparities in risk factors like obesity might provide an opportunity to control the growing numbers of children developing diabetes, which the CDC described as a serious public health concern.

“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,” Giuseppina Imperatore, MD, PhD, epidemiologist in CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, said in a statement.

Ongoing efforts to clarify the drivers of diabetes rates include The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young (TEDDY) study and the Treatment Options for Type 2 Diabetes in Adolescents and Youth (TODAY) study. In addition to funding projects like TEDDY and TODAY that target the youth population, NIH is also conducting initiatives such as the Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet, which collects outcomes data and conducts research on preventing diabetes in Americans of all ages.

 
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