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05-05-2010 | Diabetes | Article

Neighborhood socioeconomics influence diabetes risk in US youth


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MedWire News: Neighborhood socioeconomic characteristics influence risk for incident diabetes in children, report US researchers.

Over the past decade the prevalence of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents around the world has risen substantially, say Diana Grigsby-Toussaint (University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign) and colleagues.

There is accumulating evidence to show that although genetics plays a role, social and physiological environments can have a strong influence on behavioral and immunological factors linked to diabetes morbidity in youth.

In this study, the investigators assessed whether neighborhood socioeconomic characteristics affected the incidence of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes in children from Chicago.

In total, 1252 children with Type 1 (n=765) or Type 2 (n=487) diabetes who participated in the Chicago Childhood Diabetes Registry between 1994 and 2003 were included.

The team used an income diversity index that was developed by the Metro Chicago Information Center to evaluate neighborhood socioeconomic status. Neighborhoods were classified as stable diversity, emerging low income (increasing number of low-income inhabitants), emerging high income (increasing number of high-income inhabitants), desertification (entrenched levels of poverty, with a mostly African–American population), and emerging bipolarity (increasing number of both high- and low-income inhabitants).

The researchers found that, in comparison with those living in neighborhoods with stable diversity, younger (0–9 years) children living in emerging low income areas had a significantly lower risk (relative risk [RR]=0.56) and older children (10–17 years) a significantly higher risk (RR=1.52) for Type 1 diabetes.

For Type 2 diabetes, older children living in desertification neighborhoods had a significantly higher risk for the condition (RR=1.47) than those living in neighborhoods with stable diversity.

“Our study suggests that neighborhood social environment may influence diabetes risk in youth,” conclude the authors in the journal Diabetes Care.

They suggest: “Children residing in impoverished circumstances may have earlier exposure to pathogens that promote immunological maturation, resulting in protection against Type 1 diabetes and other autoimmune diseases.

“In contrast, youth residing in affluent neighborhoods may be at lower risk for Type 2 diabetes due to better opportunities for behaviors that reduce obesity risk and subsequent insulin resistance.”

However, the team concedes that the current evidence to support these theories is somewhat ambiguous.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Helen Albert

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