Type 2 diabetes, long considered an adult disease, is now hitting teens and schoolchildren.
This was revealed in a new study that tracked diagnosed cases of type 1 and type 2 diabetes in youth below the age of 20 spread in five major ethnic groups in the United States from 2002 to 2012.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 75,000 Americans die of diabetes every year.
Type 2 diabetes, also known as adult-onset diabetes, usually takes many years to develop. It is different from type 1 diabetes where insulin-producing cells are destroyed by the immune system.
"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," said Dr. Giuseppina Imperatore, an epidemiologist in CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
What Causes Type 2 Diabetes?
Health experts had been alerting about the perils of childhood obesity in the United States where nearly 17 percent kids and teens are obese. The obesity figure tripled since the 1970s, according to data from the CDC.
Type 2 diabetes is triggered by the difficulty faced by cells in using insulin for turning sugar into energy. When blood sugar goes up, blood vessels become stiff and enhance the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and kidney failure.
There is a concern as doctors are diagnosing type 2 diabetes even in school-age kids and toddlers. Data on 10- to 19-year-olds in states such as Colorado, California, Ohio, South Carolina and Washington has reinforced this.
The study also considered factors like age, gender, race/ethnicity in the matter of type 2 diabetes, and saw the incidences were up by an average 4.8 percent during the period of study.
From the micro level point of view, the data suggests that type 2 diabetes infects 1,500 more kids and teens each year.
The surge in type 2 diabetes was palpable in the 10- to 19-year-olds, regardless of age, gender, and ethnicity. Only the white kids and youth of Ohio were an exception.
The ethnic gap was quite evident in 2003. The incidences for white youth were 4.4 cases per 100,000 people and for Native Americans, the ratio was 22.6 cases per 100,000 people.
In the 29.1 million diabetes-affected population of the United States, there are 208,000 people younger than 20 years living with diagnosed diabetes.
The ethnic groups studied were non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks, Hispanics, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans.
The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, was supported by the CDC and the National Institutes of Health.
Treatment For Type 2 Diabetes
Meanwhile, U.S. scientists have discovered a new drug that had a successful test on mice. The rats were seen achieving normal blood sugar levels with the hope that similar results can follow in humans. The small-molecule inhibitor helps the body to restore sensitivity to insulin.
The drug is administered orally and there are no side effects.
"This could lead to a new therapeutic strategy for treating type 2 diabetes," said Stephanie Stanford of the University of California, San Diego.
If the new drug works out it would reverse insulin resistance, Stanford added and said the drug can reawaken insulin receptors in the liver and type 2 diabetes patients can take up insulin injections.
Targeting an enzyme called low molecular weight protein tyrosine phosphatase that sheds the cells' sensitivity to insulin, the drug when tested on mice confirmed that LMPTP was a major factor in developing obesity and insulin resistance.