Expected surge in youth diabetes in the US

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Doing a diabetes test. Photo courtesy of Photomix.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that the number of young people under age 20 with diabetes in the United States is likely to increase more rapidly in future decades. This is according to a new modeling study published in Diabetes Care. Researchers have forecasted a growing number of people under age 20 newly diagnosed with diabetes during 2017 and 2060.

This expected upward trend may lead to over 200,000 young people having type 2 diabetes in 2060 —a nearly 700 per cent increase and the number of young people with type 1 diabetes could increase by as much as 65 per cent in the next 40 years. Even if the rate of new diabetes diagnoses among young people remains the same over the decades, type 2 diabetes diagnoses could increase nearly 70 per cent and type 1 diabetes diagnoses could increase 3 per cent by 2060.

Type 1 diabetes remains more common in US youth, but type 2 diabetes has substantially increased among young people over the last two decades. Given this upward trend, more than 500,000 young people may have diabetes (including both type 1 and type 2 diabetes) by 2060. Comparatively, 213,000 young people in the United States had diabetes in 2017.

“This new research should serve as a wake-up call for all of us. It’s vital that we focus our efforts to ensure all Americans, especially our young people, are the healthiest they can be,” said CDC Acting Principal Deputy Director Debra Houry. “The COVID-19 Pandemic underscored how critically important it is to address chronic diseases, like diabetes. This study further highlights the importance of continuing efforts to prevent and manage chronic diseases, not only for our current population but also for generations to come,” she said.

Also, analyses of these data by race and ethnicity predicted a higher burden of type 2 diabetes for Black, Hispanic/Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native youth. “Increases in diabetes, especially among young people are always worrisome, but these numbers are alarming,” said Christopher Holliday, director of CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation. “This study’s startling projections of type 2 diabetes increases show why it is crucial to advance health equity and reduce the widespread disparities that already take a toll on people’s health,” he added.

Several explanations for the rise in type 2 diabetes, including the increasing prevalence of childhood obesity. The presence of diabetes in people of childbearing age might be another important factor, because maternal diabetes increases risk of diabetes in children. People with diabetes are at higher risk for heart disease or a stroke, diabetes complications, and premature death than those who do not have diabetes. Researchers are actively investigating ways of preventing type 1 diabetes and studies in adults have identified steps that can be taken to reduce the risk factors for type 2 diabetes. These findings come from the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth study, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.

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