Type 2 Diabetes blah blah blah…what about Type 1?!

We are well aware that incidence levels of Type II diabetes have been rising for some time.  Of the 350 million diabetics worldwide, 90% of them suffer from type II.   We hear about all the ways to remain active throughout life  in hopes of lowering our chances of becoming the next victim of type II.  We know excess adiposity, particularly around the abdomen, as well as leading a sedentary lifestyle are two of the biggest (and most avoidable) factors contributing to type II diabetes. What we don’t hear about is the rising incidence of type I diabetes.

The first strong signal that type I incidence was rising came in 2006, when a World Health Organization project looked at 10 years of records from 112 diabetes research centers.  A scary fact was revealed: type I had risen an average of 5.3% a year in North America, 4% in Asia, and 3.2% in Europe. These percentages aren’t earth shattering, but they are certainly substantial enough to raise some eyebrows.  An interesting fact that researchers found was that rates were increasing most quickly among children younger than five.

I haven’t heard much about the rising rates of type I diabetes and I was definitely surprised when I heard about the numbers.  Why hasn’t this had much coverage?  Is it because we don’t know why it’s happening?  Is it because there is no clear, single cause for it? Are we afraid to pour more resources into this because of uncertainty?

The rising incidence of type I is much more mysterious and deserves greater coverage.  We know increase is global, so the cause or causes must be as well. There are a few different hypotheses that have come up.

1.  Researchers have looked into gluten as a cause for the rising rates.  Gluten consumption, on a global scale has been increasing in recent decades, and type I victims have been found to be at a higher risk for celiac disease.

2.  Root vegetables have also been looked into, and particularly how early they are fed to infants. Stored tubers can become contaminated with fungi, thus potentially promoting the development of type I.  This has been proven to be the case in mice.  This hypothesis was popularized as it could explain the rapidly increasing rates in children under five.

3. The hygiene hypothesis is interesting. A lack of exposure to infectious agents or harmful organisms can have detrimental effects on the natural development of the immune system.  If your immune system doesn’t get the opportunity to function from early childhood, it becomes more susceptible to allergic diseases.  So yes, this means you are allowed to drop a cookie on the floor, then pick it up and eat it.  Give your immune system something to work with!

The moment we begin to pamper ourselves, is the moment our body begins to ‘coast’ – when systems lose their ability to function at an optimal level.

 Of course, we always have to return to our friend, Fat.  This may seem strange because we are more concerned with fat while talking about type II diabetes. Carrying excess weight causes insulin levels to rise, and this is usually not associated with producing too little insulin. Then again, it seems logical to assume the overload of insulin production can be a daunting and impossible task for the pancreas, resulting in the inevitable shutdown of insulin producing beta cells.

Yes, it is disturbing that type I diabetes is on the rise, but what I find equally concerning is the fact that it is not very well known.  I think it is because it’s a land of uncertainty. Researchers are a bit more reluctant to put time and money into discovering the cause because there isn’t a particularly strong case for any of the hypotheses.

So much focus is aimed towards type II because we know what causes it, and we know how to decrease our risk of acquiring it.  The market surrounding type II is massive and it will continue to increase as rates of obesity soar.

Do you think type I gets enough coverage? Do you think there are other reasons as to why Type I is on the rise?

References:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=a-diabetes-cliffhanger

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2 Comments on “Type 2 Diabetes blah blah blah…what about Type 1?!”

  1. anonymous October 19, 2012 at 3:11 am #

    careful on the “victims” description. Individuals with a disease don’t necessarily view themselves as victims. There is a certain rhetoric surrounding the word that often gives it a disparaging meaning.

    • Jeremy Smith October 19, 2012 at 10:16 am #

      Thanks for the input. You’re right. We do have to tread carefully around that word because of the stigma, or certain connotations it has attached. It’s very similar to describing someone as ‘handicapped’ or ‘disabled’.

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