Type 1 “Epidemic”

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By: Ben Eastman

How and why type I diabetes develops continues to puzzle doctors and researchers the world over. A recent report in the March issue of Diabetes Care illustrates one of its most interesting and unexplained characteristics. The disease, while not communicable, has a tendency to break out in “epidemics.”

The report found that from 1990 to 1995 Edmonton, Canada, showed an incidence rate of type I diabetes of 25.7 cases per 100,000 people. This is the highest incidence rate ever reported in North America.

Children ages 10 to 15 were found to be the most likely to develop the disease. No significant difference was observed between the incidence rates for males and females. The researchers did find a higher incidence of type I cases from January to March. This is consistent with the common, but equally unexplainable, pattern of lower incidence in the summer months.

The population of metropolitan Edmonton is mainly European-derived but still quite mixed ethnically. The European groups represented in Edmonton are, in descending order: British, German, Ukrainian, French, Dutch, Scandinavian, Polish and Italian. With the exception of Scandinavians and Scots, the incidence of type I in these peoples is far lower in their home countries and elsewhere with more comparable population mixes than in Edmonton.

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