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Why is type 1 diabetes increasing?

Clearly lifestyle factors raise the incidence of type 2 diabetes, but what are the reasons for the rise in the prevalence of type 1 diabetes?

Several studies and reports show an increase in the incidence of type 1 diabetes around the world.

A paper by Francesco Maria Ergo (2013) reviews some recent hypotheses about why type 1 diabetes is increasing:

  • Hygiene hypothesis: exposure to a variety of infectious agents in early childhood appears to be protective in type 1 diabetes. The proposed mechanism is that the cells of the infectious agent prevents the cells of the immune system damaging insulin-producing pancreatic cells.
  • Viral hypothesis: some viruses (including enterovirus, rubella, mumps and cytomegalovirus) may start or speed up the autoimmune process in type 1 diabetes.
  • Vitamin D deficiency: type 1 diabetes is higher in countries with less sunshine, and children treated with vitamin D have a lower risk of type 1 diabetes.
  • Breastfeeding versus cow’s milk hypothesis: proposed mechanisms are that (1) breastmilk may contain protective factors and (2) proteins present in cow’s milk formula may trigger type 1 diabetes.

Currently, there is the strongest support for the hygiene hypothesis.

Your task

Read the article by Egro (2013). The below questions should guide your reading:

  • What are the reasons for the rise of type 1 diabetes discussed in the article?
  • Is there more than a single factor for the cause?
  • If so, what is the evidence?

Post your response to these questions in the comments. Try to use evidence and scientific reasoning, rather than opinion.

Note: Those with less time and/or experience with reading journal articles may wish to read just the abstract and the conclusion as a starting point.

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This article is from the free online course:

Demystifying Diabetes

Deakin University

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