Pacific Islander and Asian youth hit with diabetes
Two local researchers find in a study the disease is increasing
Diabetes is continuing to increase among young Asians and Pacific Islanders, putting them at high risk for kidney and heart disease and other complications at an early age, say two Hawaii researchers.
"It can be prevented, but it needs to be emphasized early in youth," said Dr. Beatriz Rodriguez, principal investigator in Hawaii for a national study called SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth.
Youths with diabetes sought
Hawaii youths under age 20 diagnosed with diabetes last year or this year might be eligible to participate in the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth study.
For more information about the program in Hawaii, call 441-5532.
For more information about the study, visit www.searchfordiabetes.org.
A person diagnosed at age 70 with diabetes probably can live a relatively normal life span, but for a teenager "it can be devastating," said Dr. J. David Curb, a co-investigator. "In 20 years it's a time bomb."
Rodriguez and Curb are professors in the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine and investigators in the Pacific Health Research Institute.
Hawaii is one of six centers conducting the SEARCH study, funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with support from the National Institutes of Health.
Type 1, formerly known as juvenile diabetes, is an autoimmune disorder requiring insulin for survival either from injections or a pump because the body's immune cells destroy insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
Type 2, also known as adult-onset diabetes, occurs when the body develops resistance to insulin.
About 15,000 new Type 1 cases and 3,700 Type 2 cases are occurring each year among youths under age 20 based on 2002-2003 data, Rodriguez said.
Obesity and inactivity are closely linked with Type 2. A combination of factors, including genetics, might be involved with Type 1, the researchers said.
The study included 150 Asians, 34 Pacific Islanders and 61 mixed Asian-Pacific Islanders. More than half are Hawaii residents, Rodriguez said. Of the total 245, 177 have Type 1 diabetes and 68 have Type 2.
(Those island residents are among the 500 Hawaii youths of all ethnic groups who have been diagnosed with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes since the SEARCH study began seven years ago, Rodriguez said. Data was included in an obesity study for about half of the cases -- those diagnosed in 2005 or before and have had physical examinations, she said.)
She said all the Pacific Islanders and about 70 percent of the Asians and Asian-Pacific Islanders with Type 2 diabetes were obese. Others were overweight, she said, and "only 10 percent had normal weight."
The findings, recently reported by the CDC, show the rate of new Type 2 diabetes cases was greater than Type 1 among Asian-Pacific Island youths ages 10 to 19, said Rodriguez, stressing the importance of weight control and physical activity to prevent and control the disease.
"There is no question Type 2 is increasing dramatically, especially in Hawaii," Curb said. People in the past said Type 2 did not occur in children, and it is rare in children under age 10, but it is showing up in 10- to 19-year-olds, he noted.
The increase in Type 1 diabetes also is more than expected, Rodriguez pointed out.
"This is one of the most significant health problems in the country," said Curb. "We already know how to treat people pretty well, but the health system doesn't seem to put it into effect."
He is conducting a CDC-funded study to learn how the health system can be more effective in combating the disease.