Risk Factors For Developing Type 1 Diabetes


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Type 1 diabetes is a condition that arises due to the ineffective production and secretion of insulin. There are a number of causes of the disease, however nearly all of the cases in developed countries are due to the autoimmune destruction of the β cells of the pancreas. This type of diabetes is most common in children and adolescents who live in Northern European countries, with the incidence rates rising by just under 5% a year. Even though the rates of type 1 diabetes are rising, there are still a lot fewer cases than there are of type 2 diabetes, due to the rising rates of childhood obesity.

There have been a number of studies into the possible risk factors for the development of type 1 diabetes. The studies have concentrated on the risk factors for young children and include:

  • Some illnesses in early infancy
  • Exposure to some types of enterovirus, namely Coxsackie B4
  • Having a parent with diabetes (greater risk if it is your father)
  • Having a twin with diabetes
  • Some types of foods have been implicated in developing type 1 diabetes, these include cows milk and cereal, however the research backing up this claim is very superficial and incomplete.
  • If your mother had preeclampsia or gestational diabetes
  • If you were an overweight baby. This can cause an increased insulin secretion from the pancreatic cells, which it is thought can predispose them to autoimmune damage.
  • Being of northern European descent

It is important to note that even though some of these risk factors have been reported, many doctors still remain sceptical about their involvement in developing the disease. Therefore it would not be sensible to start withdrawing milk and cereal from your child’s diet.

Some ethnic groups are at a greater risk of developing type 1 diabetes. These are predominantly the northern Europeans and Sardinians. Interestingly a subset of type 1 diabetes known as type 1B has been found in Japanese people. It has a rapid onset, without any autoimmune destruction of the pancreas.

Finally, the incidence of type 1 diabetes has been found to be greater in children who have pre-existing autoimmune disease. It would seem that children who suffer from diseases such as Graves disease, multiple sclerosis and Hashimoto’s disease develop antibodies against β cells of the pancreas much quicker than normal children. Some studies have suggested that many autoimmune diseases have a common cause which can increase the risk of developing further complications.


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