Steep Type 1 Increase in Germany Baffles Researchers

Type 1 diabetes among children in Baden-Wuerttemberg, in Southwest Germany, has been rising at an average annual rate of 3.6 percent and researchers calculate that the rate will double within 20 years.

New onset cases in children under the age of 15 were calculated for a 12-year period beginning in 1976 and ending in 1998. During that period, the number of new cases rose by 47 percent, researchers from the University Children’s Hospital in Tuebingen, Germany, reported in the April issue of Diabetes Care.

From 1987 until 1998, new cases of type 1 diabetes rose from just over 10 per 100,000 children (in 1987) to 15.6 cases per 100,000 children (in 1998). The overall average for the period, now at 12.9 cases per 100,000 children, is expected to rise to 24.7 cases per 100,000 children by 2020.

While the overall 3.6-percent increase in new cases of type 1 diabetes in Germany is higher than the international average of 2.5 to 3 percent, researchers say similar numbers have been reported in Oxford, United Kingdom, and France. In Oxford, new cases are reported as increasing at a rate of 3.7 percent. France has seen a 3.9-percent increase in new cases among children.

Is the cause environmental or genetic? Researchers have been unsuccessful in attempts to find the reason behind the increases. They suggest that a third reason could be that children are developing type 1 diabetes at earlier ages. However, because data is unavailable in Germany for onset of type 1 diabetes over the age of 15, that theory cannot be proven.

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