Reporting on health and quality of life in South LA

Study: Type 1 diabetes rate among young children grew 70 percent over 2 decades

A medical assistant holds an insulin pen

SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images

An insulin pen. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body produces little to no insulin, and type 2 diabetes can develop when the body becomes resistant to it.

Local health care providers say type 2 diabetes is way more prevalent than the type 1 variety in South Los Angeles – that's true for both adults and children.

In fact, that seems to be true across the board: Up to 95 percent of all diagnosed diabetes cases are type 2.

Obesity is the primary risk factor for type 2 diabetes, which can develop when the body becomes resistant to insulin. Genetics also play a role in a person's development of the disease.

Type 1, on the other hand, is what happens when little to no insulin is produced. Experts still aren't sure what causes it, although it's most often diagnosed in children, teenagers or young adults.

With child obesity on the rise, doctors knew that rising rates of type 2 diabetes among youngsters would be close behind. That problem is especially acute in South L.A., where the rates of child obesity are among the county's highest. The trend is so worrisome that the American Academy of Pediatrics recently released the first official guidelines – ever – regarding how to treat the disease in children.

But now researchers on the East Coast are seeing a similar pattern with type 1 diabetes among children: A new study appearing in Diabetes Care found that incidence of the disease in very young children from Philadephia – those under the age of five – increased by a whopping 70 percent between 1985 and 2004.

During the same time period, type 1 diabetes among all children in the City of Brotherly Love increased by 29 percent.

The study's authors weren't able to confirm any risk factors, which is to say they don't know why this is happening. Unlike in South L.A., type 1 diabetes in Philadelphia is three times as common as its type 2 counterpart, and increased in prevalence by 1.5 percent every year during the study's timeframe.

Both forms of diabetes can be deadly, and South Los Angeles is one the hardest-hit places: Its diabetes mortality rate, according to the public health department, is one of the worst in Los Angeles County: 39 patients die for every 100,000 people in the city's ninth council district.

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