A report presented at the recent American Diabetes Association’s annual meeting alarmed scientists and doctors: data shows an increase of type 1 diabetes in children of 23 percents. When added to the increase of type 2 diabetes among young people of 21 percents, our young generation can expect bleak future.
Steady increase in incidence of type 2 diabetes has been alarming enough, but the causes are well known: one in 3 kids is overweight or obese. The link between obesity and increased risk for the development of diabetes mellitus has been well established. The problem with the increase of juvenile diabetes is that its cause is not clear.
What causes juvenile diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. Body”s immune system starts destroying beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Why that happens is not clear, and it happens mostly in childhood, but it can suddenly attack adults as well. People with type 1 diabetes are completely dependent on outside sources of insulin.
The causes of juvenile diabetes are not well known. The most common risk is genetics, but the majority of people who have the gene which predisposes them to juvenile diabetes never develop the disease. It takes one or more environmental triggers to start the autoimmune self-destructing process. The most common triggers are viruses, some auto-immune diseases and other factors as of yet unknown.
Why sudden increase?
There are several theories about the possible causes of the recent increase of type 1 diabetes. One is that the early introduction of cow milk in children nutrition might induce immunization to insulin. Other theories believe that children today do not have a chance to develop mature immune system because they are not exposed to enough bacteria and viruses. While neither theory has been sufficiently proven, it points towards immune system failure as the cause of diabetes increase.
Both types of diabetes have serious potential long-term health risks. Diabetes increases risks of nerve damage, kidney problems and heart disease. Children that contract diabetes so early in life can expect life-long struggle to keep their sugar in check and serious health consequences at bay.
What can we do?
Whether the theory about the damage caused by early introduction of cow milk or cow milk formula to your baby”s meal is sound or not, doctors strongly advise mothers to breast-feed their infants as long as they can. Healthy lifestyle before the child is born, with healthy diet and regular exercise, is the first thing you ca do for your child. Keeping such lifestyle so that the child can inherit it will have life-long consequences in many ways, including decreasing risk of obesity and consequent diabetes and related health issues.
For more information on the diabetes epidemic in our society, check the latest National Diabetes Fact Sheet produced by the CDC.