Young and Diabetic

Diabetes prevalence among American youth in 2009 explored in new study

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) We know diabetes is a big problem among American adults - but how is it affecting our kids?

A new study explored the prevalence of diabetes among kids in the US during the year 2009.

After analyzing the data, the study authors estimated that diabetes affected over 190,000 American youth under the age of 20 in 2009. 

"Eat a balanced diet that includes fruit and vegetables."

In diabetes, the body must deal with high blood glucose levels resulting from problems creating or using insulin, the hormone that allows glucose (blood sugar) to be absorbed from the bloodstream into the tissues so it can be used for energy.

In type 1 diabetes, usually diagnosed in children or young adults, the body does not produce insulin. In type 2 diabetes, the most common form, the body is unable to properly use insulin. 

Led by David J. Pettitt, MD, of the Sansum Diabetes Research Institute in Santa Barbara, California, the new study aimed to estimate the prevalence of diabetes among American youth in 2009, and explore estimates of diabetes among different ages and ethnicities.

Dr. Pettitt and colleagues relied on data from the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth Study. This study focused on people under the age of 20 in certain areas in Colorado, Ohio, South Carolina and Washington, American Indians living on reservations in Arizona and New Mexico and young people with Kaiser Permanente health plans in Southern California.

This provided a population of 3,458,974 participants under the age of 20. 

SEARCH identified participants who had been diagnosed with diabetes by a doctor as of December 31, 2009. The type of diabetes was classified according to the diagnosis, and ethnicity was determined based on self-report from the study participants. 

Of the study population, 7,695 youth with diabetes were identified - a rate of 2.22 people out of 1,000. Of this group, 6,668 (1.93 out of 1,000) were found to have type 1 diabetes, 837 (0.24 out of 1,000) were found to have type 2 diabetes and 190 (0.05 out of 1,000) had other types of diabetes.

Diagnoses in the "other" category included secondary diabetes caused by another condition, hybrid diabetes (in which a form of the condition similar to type 1 diabetes develops later than usual), monogenic diabetes (which is caused by a single genetic mutation) and other unspecified forms of the condition.

The prevalence of diabetes increased with age, from 0.30 diabetes patients out of 1000 children under age five to 4.03 diabetes patients out of 1,000 youth between the ages of 15 and 19.

Non-Hispanic white youth had the highest prevalence of diabetes - 2.70 out of 1,000, and Asian/Pacific Islander youth had the lowest prevalence - 0.80 out of 1,000. Native American and Black youth had the highest prevalence of type 2 diabetes, the study authors noted. 

Young women had a slightly higher prevalence of diabetes than young men (2.30 out of 1,000 in females versus 2.16 out of 1,000 in males). 

The study authors used this data to estimate that 191,986 people under the age of 20 had diabetes in the US as of 2009 - or approximately one out of every 433 of the 83.3 million youth in this age range. They further estimated that 166,984 of these young people had type 1 diabetes, 20,262 had type 2 diabetes and 4,740 had other types of diabetes. 

Dr. Pettitt and colleagues reported that this was an increase of 42,357 estimated cases from their estimates for 2001. The greatest increase was seen in type 1 diabetes. 

"The development of complications is related to the duration of diabetes, and youth with onset of diabetes early in life represent a population at high risk for developing these complications," wrote the study authors.

In an interview with dailyRx News, Ian K. Yamane, DC, Clinic Director of Valhalla Wellness Center in Las Vegas, provided several recommendations for how to reduce the risk of developing diabetes.

"Diet and lifestyle are effective tools for preventing and controlling the disease in children, children at risk for developing diabetes, as well as adults," explained Dr. Yamane.

"A diet that is composed of fresh vegetables, good fats like nuts, coconuts and avocados, lean meats and fish is optimal. Avoiding all 'white foods' - white bread, cakes, candy, white rice, pasta - helps to keep blood sugar levels in normal range. Reading labels is the key," said Dr. Yamane. "Avoiding prepared foods that have added sugars in the form of fructose, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), corn syrup, lactose, malt syrup and maltose will keep simple carbohydrates and the blood sugar spikes they cause at bay."

"Daily exercise and participation in sports results in a better response to insulin which helps manage diabetes," Dr. Yamane also suggested.

It is important to note that this study made the estimations based on data from a limited number of sites within the US. 

However, Dr. Pettitt and colleagues concluded, "Efforts are needed both to provide care for youth living with either type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes and to reduce the risk for development of diabetes and diabetes-related complications in high-risk populations."

The study was published September 16 in Diabetes Care, the journal of ADA. No conflicts of interest were reported. 

Review Date: 
September 18, 2013
Last Updated:
September 29, 2013