The EASD annual meeting on diabetes is currently being held in Barcelona and has sounded an alarm. The number of cases of type 2 diabetes, more commonly associated with adults, is appearing more and more frequently in young people.
In the United States, the prevalence of diabetes in people under 30 years old has increased greatly, by 2.3% annually since 2010. Today experts predict that the number of cases will quadruple by 2050.
Official data on the number of cases is currently lacking in Italy, but based on U.S. statistics, it is estimated that the number of young people with diabetes has doubled in the last ten years, affecting 150,000 people.
To make matters worse, the disease has proven to be much more aggressive in young people than in adults.
Type 2 diabetes in young people is associated to serious syndromes of insulin resistance and to a rapid decline in pancreatic beta cell function (even four times faster than in adults). Even treatment failure rates are significantly higher in the younger population.
Francesco Purello, president of the Italian Society for the Study of Diabetes (Sid), says: “the (type 2 diabetes) that is increasingly being diagnosed in young people is very different from the adult form of the disease. It’s more serious and aggressive with even worse cardiovascular complications and doesn’t respond as well to treatment, often requiring insulin therapy in a short time. Even researchers are surprised by the severity of the cases of diabetes present in this generation of twenty-year-olds. Unfortunately, there are few treatment options and still very little research available”.
In order to protect young people from long-term cardiovascular mortality, we need to adopt more aggressive intervention strategies and increase efforts towards prevention.
Purrello claims, “Our priority must be to fight sedentarism and improper eating habits in young people, but we must also screen those who are at risk for diabetes- young people who are overweight, sedentary or have a history of diabetes in the family, for example”.
According to EASD, even schools, the food industry (by reducing fat and sugar content) and governments should take action to prevent the disease. The EASD has suggested that measures such as a consumption tax to discourage young people from drinking sugary drinks be implemented. This is not a new idea. A similar provision was made by the Italian Society for Diabetology, which shows just how urgent the matter has become.
“Not only doctors should be in charge of prevention”, concludes Professor Purrello . “Prevention should start in the home, at school, through healthcare policies and should involve various sectors in society, such as the food industry”.
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