This site is intended for health professionals only

Dramatic increase of type 1 diabetes in under-fives

Researchers are calling for more work into the reasons behind a big increase of young children with type 1 diabetes. A new study has discovered that the number of children under five-years-old with type 1 diabetes has increased fivefold over 20 years.

While the largest rise of the condition was seen in children under five, type 1 diabetes in under 15s almost doubled during the study. There was a 2.3% increase in the number of children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes each year.

The new research, to be announced at Diabetes UK's Annual Professional Conference, comes from researchers at the University of Bristol who were funded by Diabetes UK. The study looked at Oxford's population of 2.6 million people between 1985 and 2004.

Simon O'Neill, Director of Care, Information and Advocacy Services at Diabetes UK said: "This project has produced some very interesting results. 

"The evidence of a steep rise of type 1 diabetes found in the under-fives indicates that the peak age for diagnosis of the condition in the UK is becoming younger. While 10-14-year-olds remain the largest group for diagnosis, the rise in cases found in children under five is worrying."

Professor Polly Bingley from Bristol University added: "The incidence of childhood type 1 diabetes has been shown to be increasing all over Europe, particularly in the very young.

"The increase is too steep to be put down to genetic factors, so it must be due to changes in our environment. This could either mean that we are being exposed to something new, or that we now have reduced exposure to something that was previously controlling our immune responses. We now need to work to identify what these changes might be."