Bad News: The Children's Diabetes Epidemic Just Got Worse

New government data show both type 1 and type 2 diabetes advancing among children and adolescents.

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Rick Wilking/Reuters

These days, when people talk about diabetes, they mean the kind that goes hand-in-hand with obesity. The kind you get when you eat too much fast food and drink too much sugary soda. That's type 2 diabetes. But the other kind -- type 1, or what used to be called "juvenile diabetes" -- is just as bad, if not worse, because there's not very much you can do to prevent it.

Now, a new report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institutes for Health (NIH) show that both forms of the disease are spreading at a rapid pace.

In a study involving 20,000 young Americans, researchers saw the incidence of type 1 diabetes jump 23 percent over eight years. Prevalence of type 2 rose by 21 percent over the same period. Both numbers reflect worrying trends in the nation's long-term outlook for diabetes. But the rise of type 2 among children is especially troublesome, underscoring the remarkable three-fold increase of childhood obesity in the last several decades. Nearly a third of children and teens were overweight or obese in 2008, according to the CDC.

While patients with type 2 diabetes either become insulin resistant or can't produce enough of the stuff to manage their blood sugar levels effectively, patients with type 1 diabetes can't produce insulin at all. type 1 has been more common in children than in adults, but that's starting to change as those who contracted type 1 as kids grow older.

Previous research has reported that if left unchecked, diabetes could affect up to one-third of Americans by midcentury. The new numbers go a long way toward bearing out that prediction.

Presented by

Brian Fung is the technology writer at National Journal. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and has written for Foreign Policy and The Washington Post.

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