(Young students walking down hallway of school)

Latino youth have the fastest growing rates of diabetes, says study

Startling new analysis reveals that Latino youth have the fastest growing rates of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, outpacing other ethnic groups even as diabetes among U.S. youth is at an all-time high.

Using data from the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth study over an eight-year period ending in 2009, researchers affiliated with the American Diabetes Association found that the number of U.S. children and youth under 20 years of age who are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes is growing at an annual rate of about 3 percent – a 23 percent jump over eight years.

The prevalence of Type 2 diabetes among American children under 20 has jumped up to 33 percent, an increase of 21 percent over the course of eight years. The study found that there are 189,000 Americans under 20 years of age with diabetes; of those, 168,000 youth had Type 1 diabetes and over 19,000 were diagnosed with Type 2.

Not all ethnic groups were found to have increased diagnosis of the disease over time. While the study found that Type 2 diabetes was highest among American Indian and non-Hispanic black youth, the rate of diabetes among these groups did not change. However, researchers did find that the proportion of Hispanic and non-Hispanic white youth with Type 2 diabetes was initially low, but increased significantly over time. Hispanic youth had the highest increase of diabetes than any other ethnic group, a finding that study author Dana Dabelea, MD, PhD, a professor at the University of Colorado in Denver, found surprising.

“We didn’t see an increase among traditionally high risk youth such as American Indians and African Americans, which indicates that those groups may have reached a plateau,” says Dr. Dabelea, who presented the study findings in Philadelphia on Sunday. “But now, rates of diabetes among Hispanic kids have outpaced other groups both in Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes – something we’ve never seen before and indicative of something we should take seriously.”

The increase of Hispanic youth with type 2 diabetes may be impacted by the onset of maternal diabetes, says Dr. Dabelea.

“The cycle of obesity creates a transgenerational problem as the children of obese women or women with type 2 diabetes during pregnancy are more likely to develop diabetes early,” explains Dr. Dabelea.

Lifestyle choices also impact the likelihood of Type 2 diabetes diagnosis among children.

Parents should encourage their kids to be physically active and help them make healthy food choices,”  says “Elizabeth Mayer-Davis, MSPH, PhD, RD, Professor at the University of North Carolina and American Diabetes Association, Immediate Past-President, Health Care & Education. “These things reduce type 2 diabetes and can be helpful in terms of managing the disease. It’s also important that your child has already been diagnosed with diabetes, you should work closely with a health care provider to optimize the health of their child.”

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can make all the difference when it comes to your child’s well-being, says Carmen Román-Shriver, PhD, RD, LD, Associate Professor & Director of Dietetics and Nutrition at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.

“The bottom line is that the trend of diabetes and pre-diabetes among Latino children emphasizes the need for moderate portion sizes, healthy food choices, exercise and overall health,” says Dr. Román-Shriver.

“We have to remember that diabetes can be a precursor to heart disease – the leading cause of death among Hispanics.”


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