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Higher Rates of Type I Diabetes Still Unexplained

Update Date: Mar 26, 2013 01:57 PM EDT

Over the past few decades, researchers and statisticians have reported an increase in the number cases of children developing type I diabetes before turning 15-years-old. Researchers found that roughly an average of a 3 percent increase in new cases is added to the total number every year. Even after several years of observing this trend, researchers still do not have a concrete, biological explanation as to why this is the case. However, several new hypotheses have been placed on the table in the hopes of finally figuring out what factors might be directly contributing to the increase of this disease.

Previous explanations regarding type I diabetes included the increase of pesticides and viruses in the environment, along with doctors performing more cesarean sections. The hypothesis that people moving over to gluten diets might cause type I diabetes has also been suggested. However, none of these hypotheses have any evidence backing up their claims. A more recent explanation, presented at the Society for Endocrinology conference by researchers from the University of Malta uses more evidence to back up its claim.

The researchers stated that the hygiene hypothesis might be able to explain the increase prevalence of type I diabetes, which is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks itself. The hygiene hypothesis states that children who are too clean and do not get exposed to as many bacteria and viruses have a weaker immune system. The researchers cited the hygiene hypothesis after noticing a trend that countries with lower rates of deaths due to infections had higher rates of type I diabetes. Although this hypothesis alone cannot completely explain the trend, it gives insight into a new explanation that presents more evidence.

"By eating dirt and getting sick early on, the immune system may be directed in the correct way to fight back, not to react to parts of the body itself. This may be an over simplified explanation for what might be happening but it's plausible," Marian Rewers MD, Ph.D. stated. Rewers is a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

Aside from this explanation, the researchers of the study also observed that certain viruses could increase the risk for people who already have a genetic predisposition for the disease. However, more research needs to be done in order to monitor the possible causes of type I diabetes in order to help stop the progression of the disease.

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