5 Surprising Facts About Diabetes

Could Environment Be a Factor in Childhood Diabetes?

Rates of type 1 diabetes have been steadily climbing worldwide. "While early adolescence is still the most common age of onset, some children are being diagnosed even before their first birthday," says Dr. Laffel. Although kids who develop type 1 are thought to have some sort of genetic predisposition to a malfunctioning immune system, most don't have a close relative with the condition. The reason for the rise is a mystery, but researchers are looking into three environmental factors.

Extreme Cleanliness Thanks to improved hygiene, children don't encounter as many germs today, which may interfere with normal development of the immune system.

Weight Gain In kids whose insulin-producing cells have already started malfunctioning, excess weight may accelerate the development of full-blown diabetes.

Early Solids Feeding cereal before 3 months to a baby who is at higher risk for type 1 may be linked to triggering the immune system to mistakenly attack his pancreas.

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