HealthDay News — Prevalence of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes has increased significantly among U.S. youth during the first part of the 21st century, data presented at the American Diabetes Association meeting reveal.

From 2001 to 2009, type 1 diabetes increased 23% and type 2 diabetes increased 21%, Dana Dabelea, MD, PhD, of the University of Colorado Denver in Aurora, and colleagues reported at a press conference.

They analyzed data from the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth Study, which included teens and adolescents younger than 20 years living in Ohio, Colorado, Washington and South Carolina. Overall, approximately 189,000 youths with diabetes where identified in 2009 — 168,000 with type 1 and 19,000 with type 2.

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After adjusting for completeness of ascertainment, diabetes prevalence per 1,000 cases was 1.67 (95% CI 1.62-1.72) in 2001 and 2.06 (95% CI 2.01-2.12) in 2009.

Although the reason for the increase in type 1 diabetes is unknown, the researchers suggested several factors may have contributed, including the “hygiene hypothesis,” in which young children are less exposed to bacteria and viruses that are important in immune system development, and several other environmental variables.

Type 2 diabetes prevalence rose 21% from 2001 to 2009, from 2.9 per 10,000 cases to 3.6 per 10,000 cases, the researchers found (P=0.007). Prevalence could only be determined for children aged 10 years or older, due to the rarity of type 2 diabetes among younger children.

Although the burden of disease is highest among Native Americans and blacks, increases in prevalence were only significant in females, Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites. This may be because type 2 diabetes incidence is plateauing in high risk groups, the researchers explained.

“Type 2, once known as ‘adult onset’ diabetes, is increasingly being diagnosed in young people,” Dabelea said in a statement. “We’ve known this was happening for a while, but now we have data that tell us just how big a problem it has become.”

The researchers also observed several complications involving the nerves, kidney and cardiovascular system among children with diabetes. Symptoms of neuropathy were identified in almost 12% of children with type 1 diabetes vs. 26% of those with type 2 diabetes.

Urinary albuminuria, a risk factor for kidney disease later in life, was more prevalent among kids with type 2 diabetes than type 1, the researchers reported. Cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, was observed in children with both types of diabetes. Overall, children with diabetes who lived a more sedentary lifestyle — defined as watching at least three hours of television per day — had significantly higher glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) and triglyceride levels than those who watched less television. 


Mayer-Davis E et al. Abstract #1248-P. “Increase in prevalence of type 1 diabetes from the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth Study: 2001-2009.” American Diabetes Association 72nd Scientific Sessions. Philadelphia: June 8-12, 2012.

Dabelea D et al. Abstract 228-OR. “Is prevalence of type 2 diabetes increasing in youth? The SEARCH for diabetes in Youth Study.” American Diabetes Association 72nd Scientific Sessions. Philadelphia: June 8-12, 2012.