Trauma Heightens Chances of Type 1 in Kids

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A new study discussed in a Time article suggests that traumatic life events can trigger the development of Type 1 diabetes in young children.

In a survey of more than 10,000 families, parents filled out questionnaires over a span of 12 years. The children who had experienced a “serious life incident” (death of a family member or serious accident, for example) showed a tripled risk of being diagnosed with Type 1. And this was after researchers factored out other risk factors for developing Type 1, including the genetic likelihood of diabetes development, body mass index, and the mother’s age at childbirth.

Lead researcher Dr. Johnny Ludvigsson of Linkoping University in Sweden speculates that diabetes is not a result of these traumatic incidents; rather it lies dormant and is triggered in children with a genetic predisposition when a traumatic event takes place. On a biological level, extreme stress releases cortisol, a hormone that overworks insulin-producing beta cells. Researchers believe extreme stress also releases toxins. Such a drastic change in body chemistry might prompt the immune system to destroy those beta cells, thus creating the catalyst for the start of Type 1, if the beta cell destruction continues unabated.

Dr. Ludvigsson suggests that this study provides further evidence of the value of providing adequate mental health support for children who experience traumatic events.

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Travis served as a staff writer for Insulin Nation and Type 2 Nation in 2015. Previously, he was a staff writer for Insight, a high school newspaper, as well as a copywriter for The Emersonian, Emerson's yearbook.

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