Imperatore's group wanted to estimate whether the rate of diabetes in children would likely mirror the increasing rates in adults.
Using a statistical model, they predicted two different scenarios. The first model used current data from a large national study of diabetes in youth, as well as data from the U.S. Census Bureau, and assumed that incidence rates would remain constant. The second model used some of the same data, but assumed that the incidence of both types of diabetes would rise just several percentage points, as they have been in other countries.
If the incidence rates of diabetes remain steady, the incidence of type 1 diabetes will rise from about 166,000 American children with the disease today to more than 203,000 in 2050. The number of children with type 2 diabetes will jump from about 20,000 today to 30,000 in 2050, according to the study.
If the rates of diabetes increase just slightly, however, the picture quickly becomes far more grim. The number of children with type 1 diabetes will almost triple to about 587,000, and the rate of type 2 diabetes will quadruple, with about 84,000 U.S. children affected, according to the study.
Imperatore said these estimates should be considered boundaries for where diabetes might go. She said it's possible that the rates could decline, particularly if researchers make inroads into preventing type 1 diabetes.
For type 2 disease, she said, it's clear that obesity is the major risk factor, though it's not the only factor involved in developing type 2 diabetes.
Another diabetes expert emphasized the huge impact of diabetes on public health.
"We need to recognize the genetic components of both types of diabetes, and understand who is at risk," said Dr. Robert Ratner, chief scientific and medical officer for the American Diabetes Association. "The obesity epidemic isn't due to sloth and gluttony. It's an interact
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