Though researchers can't say why exactly these rates continue to go up, it is important to monitor them, Dr. Dana Dabelea told Reuters Health.
Dabelea worked on the study at the Colorado School of Public Health in Aurora.
"This should draw attention to the seriousness of pediatric diabetes especially for the clinical and public health community," she said. "At the individual level, every new case of diabetes at a young age means a lifelong burden of difficult, expensive treatment and a high risk of complications."
Dabelea and her team analyzed data from health plans in California, Colorado, Ohio, South Carolina and Washington state, as well as from American Indian reservations in the Southwest, including more than 3 million patients under age 19.
In 2001, about 14.8 kids in every 10,000 were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, formerly known as "juvenile diabetes," in which the body's own immune system destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Insulin is needed to remove sugar from the bloodstream so it can be used for energy.
By 2009, that rate had risen to 19.3 kids in every 10,000, a 21 percent increase, the authors found. Type 1 diabetes was most common among white children.
In type 2 diabetes, which is much more common but not usually diagnosed until adulthood, the body still makes insulin but can't use it effectively. For the current study, the authors looked at type 2 diabetes among kids ages 10 and up.
Among that group in 2001, 3.4 kids in every 10,000 were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, which increased to 4.6 per 10,000 in 2009, a 31 percent increase. This type of diabetes was most common among American Indian and black youth.
Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get delicious (and healthy!) recipes and food inspiration sent directly to your inbox!
Image: Child with insulin shot, via Shutterstock