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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UNC-Led Study: Youth with Type 2 Diabetes More Likely to Have Significant Complications Later in Life

A new report, co-authored by a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researcher and published in the Feb. 28 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), indicates that adolescents and young adults with Type 2 diabetes bear a significantly higher burden of potential diabetes-related complications – especially among minority youth with this disease – than their peers with Type 1 diabetes.

[Photo: Dr. Elizabeth Mayer-Davis]

The report, by researchers involved with the nationwide SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth study, looked at five health complications and comorbidities of diabetes, including retinopathy (eye disease), diabetic kidney disease, peripheral neuropathy (altered sensation in the feet), arterial stiffness and high blood pressure.

“It’s easy to think that youth or young adults don’t need to worry yet about the long-term complications of diabetes, including kidney disease, eye disease or heart disease,” said Dr. Elizabeth Mayer-Davis, Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor of nutrition and medicine and chair of the Department of Nutrition at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health. Dr. Mayer-Davis is co-author of the paper and the SEARCH study’s co-chair.

“We found that early signs of these complications are quite common, especially for type 2 diabetes,” Mayer-Davis added.

The researchers studied 1,746 adolescents and young adults with Type 1 diabetes and 272 with Type 2 diabetes. In fewer than eight years following a diagnosis, they found, approximately one-third of teenagers and young adults with Type 1 diabetes and almost 75 percent of those with Type 2 diabetes had at least one health complication or comorbidity. Additionally, any adjustment for differences in age, sex, race/ethnicity and levels of glucose control over time, did not remove the excess prevalence among those with Type 2 diabetes.

“It’s critical to learn more about best ways to reduce risk for long-term complications and to sustain good health for those living with diabetes, including both Type 1 and Type 2,” Dr. Mayer-Davis said.

Since 2000, the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth study has monitored the burden of diabetes in youth with onset less than 20 years of age. Five U.S. clinical centers and principal investigators participated.

Along with Dr. Mayer-Davis, the SEARCH co-chair at UNC’s Gillings School, who also collaborated with the University of South Carolina’s School of Public Health, the researchers and centers included the study’s first author and study co-chair Dr. Dana Dabelea at Colorado School of Public Health, Dr. Catherine Pihoker at Seattle Children’s Hospital, Dr. Jean Lawrence at Kaiser Permanente Southern California, and Dr. Larry Dolan, of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. The study’s central laboratory at the Northwest Lipid Research Laboratory is overseen by Dr. Santica Marcovina; its coordinating center, based at the Wake Forest School of Medicine, is co-directed by Dr. Ralph D’Agostino and Dr. Lynne Wagenknecht.

SEARCH is funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.