Childhood Diabetes
Environmental factors implicated...

Environmental factors before or shortly after birth could be responsible for the dramatic increase in childhood diabetes in Europe and other parts of the world.  During the past 20-30 years the number of children under the age of five needing insulin to control their diabetes has risen sharply.

A change in the population gene pool due to the improved survival of people with the disease could be one reason, but doctors think a change in environment is more likely.  "A number of environmental influences encountered early in life could be relevant", Dr Edwin Gale of the University of Bristol in southwestern England said in the medical journal, Lancet.

Infections of German measles and other viruses in pregnant women could affect the development of diabetes in their babies and early exposure to cow milk products could be another cause.  Gale, who conducted a study of diabetic children in Oxford between 1985 and 1995, said changes in patterns in childhood immunizations could be another reason, but it has not been proven yet.

In his study of 1,037 diabetic children under the age of 15, Gale found an annual increase of 4 percent, but in younger children under five the rate soared to 11 percent.

"At present the best hope of reversing this trend would seem to lie in identifying and eliminating environmental trigger factors or, failing this, in strategies of inducing tolerance or vaccination targeted at the neo-natal population", he added.

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