Australian environment linked to type 1

diabetes-environmental-factors-insulinAccording to an article published today by the Herald Sun, the number of  Australian children developing Type 1 diabetes is growing by around four per cent each year, putting the country in the top 10 countries in the world in terms of the number of new cases. Figures released today show there were 987 new cases of insulin-dependent diabetes in children aged under 14 in 2007, compared with 758 in 2000.

This trend may be also replicated in Europe wherescientifics estimate that the total number of children under age 15 with type 1 diabetes will rise 70 percent to 160,000 by 2020, up from 94,000 now. To predict the future burden of type 1 diabetes,  Dr. Chris Patterson of Queen’s University in Belfast, Gyula Soltesz of Pecs University in Hungary and colleagues analyzed data from 17 European countries on 29,311 cases of type 1 diabetes during 1989 to 2003.

“These findings suggest that the incidence of type 1 diabetes is increasing even faster than before, pointing toward harmful changes in the environment in which contemporary children live,” Dr. Dana Dabelea of the University of Colorado in Denver wrote in a commentary.

For a while, there has been speculation about the causes of Type 1 diabetes, and in particular, whether genetic makeup or the environment are the triggers. Now there seems to be more evidence that the environment is playing a bigger role. Associate Professor Maria Craig, a paediatrician who specialises in diabetes at the University of NSW, says the rapid rise in Type 1 cases “means it’s got to be something in the environment because genes can’t change that quickly”.

In my personal conversations with various diabetes professionals the view seems to be that we simply may be getting better at diagnosing these cases, and not that there are more of them. There is also the question that now people with Type 1 diabetes can have children, which may inevitably spread whatever genetic factors are involved.

We obviously still have a lort or research to do before we can come any close to understanding what is causing type 1 diabetes.

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