There will be twice as many children under five with insulin-dependent type 1 diabetes across Europe by 2020, according to researchers at Queen’s University, Belfast.
They blame lifestyle factors such as diet and the increasing number of Caesarean section births, themselves linked to a growing tendency for babies to be bigger and heavier.
Dr Christopher Patterson said: ‘In the absence of any effective means to prevent type 1 diabetes, European countries need to ensure appropriate planning of services and that resources are in place to provide high-quality care for the increased numbers of children who will be diagnosed with diabetes in future years.’
He reports 15,000 new cases of type 1 diabetes in 2005, of which 24% were children aged up to four, 37% aged five to nine and 34% aged 10 to 14. Overall, the number of cases is increasing by 4% a year.
This was 5.4% in the 0-4 age group, 4.3% in the 5-9 group, 2.9% among ten to 14-year-olds, and with 24,400 new cases forecast for 2020.
There will also be a substantial increase among children over five. The research suggests that the statistics cannot be due to genetic factors alone.