Type 2 Diabetes, a Silent Threat to Latino Youth

Type 2 Diabetes Latino Youth BELatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of Everyday Health.

Understanding the particularities of the Latino community not only comes down to cultural differences but also to their health collaterals.

From diet to environmental factors, the Hispanic community in the United States presents different risks that deserve detailed attention.

A case in point is the findings of research published last week by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which found that type 2 diabetes diagnoses in Latinos between the ages of 10 and 19 rose 95% over the 16-year period.

As The Hill explained, the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth study, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health, found “significant increases” in both types of diabetes among both sexes and every racial or ethnic minority group.

Giuseppina Imperatore, the chief of the surveillance, epidemiology, economics, and statistics branch in the CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation, said in a statement that a rise in diabetes among youth is “always troubling.”

“Rising rates of diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes, which is preventable, has the potential to create a cascade of poor health outcomes,” Imperatore said. “Compared to people who develop diabetes in adulthood, youth are more likely to develop diabetes complications at an earlier age and are at higher risk of premature death.”

Jean Lawrence, who co-authored the study, said scientists should research to “better understand the underlying causes of the increase” in diabetes diagnoses.

“Increasing prevalence of type 2 diabetes could be caused by rising rates of childhood obesity, in utero exposure to maternal obesity and diabetes, or increased diabetes screenings,” she said. “The impact of diabetes on youth is concerning as it has the potential to negatively impact these youth as they age and could be an early indicator of the health of future generations.”

Type 2 Diabetes Latinos Figures BELatina Latinx
Estimated Prevalence of Type 1 Diabetes by Race and Ethnicity, Age, and Sex for 2001, 2009, and 2017. Source: JAMA.

The JAMA report estimated that the estimated proportion of youth aged 0-19 years with type 1 diabetes increased from 148 per 100,000 in 2001 to 215 per 100,000 in 2017.

The report noted that the largest increases in the prevalence of type 2 diabetes were seen in black or Hispanic youth.

The study has been released on the same day that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has issued guidance recommending that overweight or obese Americans be screened for diabetes at age 35 rather than at age 40, as previously recommended.

Because the disease can lead to a host of other health-threatening conditions, the longer a person has the disease, the more likely they will develop other disorders, such as eye and heart conditions, Elizabeth Selvin, an epidemiologist specializing in diabetes research, told USA Today.

Selvin called the findings “extraordinarily concerning.”

“These increases in type 2 diabetes in youth are sobering,” said Selvin, a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “It used to be thought that type 2 diabetes was a disease of adults. And now, we’re seeing major increases in kids. And this is a disease they’re likely to have their whole lives.”