It may not come as surprise that the rate of diabetes is skyrocketing in America. According to the American Diabetes Association, 1.9 million new cases of diabetes are diagnosed per year in American adults and that rate is rising each year. But where does this leave America’s youth?

In 2001, nearly 15 out of 10,000 youths under the age of 20 were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. In 2009, that number had jumped to nearly 19. Youth diagnosed with type 2 diabetes rose from nearly 4 out of every 10,000 to almost 5. “Between 2001 and 2009 in 5 areas of the United States, the prevalence of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes among children and adolescents increased,” says the new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

With a 21 percent increase of type 1 diabetes in America’s youth, doctors are left wondering the cause for such a dramatic increase. In was noted in the study that, “Significant increases occurred between 2001 and 2009 in both sexes, all age-groups, and in white, Hispanic, and black youth, with no significant changes for Asian Pacific Islanders and American Indians.” Since type 1 diabetes isn’t discriminating between age, sex or race, it raises difficulties for researchers who are looking for a cause and eventually a cure.

An increase in type 2 diabetes is far simpler to explain due the increasingly unhealthy lifestyle that many Americans fall prey to. Lack of exercise and an unbalanced diet can lead to a number of health complications for both children and adults. But the rise of type 1 diabetes is not so easily understood. Since type 1 diabetes is linked to a genetic predisposition where a body’s immune cells destroy the pancreatic cells that produce insulin, children are born with type 1 diabetes, even though it may not be diagnosed until later in life.

“The diabetes population and the related costs are expected to at least double in the next 25 years. Without significant changes in public or private strategies, this population and cost growth are expected to add a significant strain to an overburdened health care system,” according to the study Projecting the Future Diabetes Population Size and Related Costs for the U.S.

How can you help protect your child?

Unfortunately there is no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes. “No one knows for sure what causes type 1 diabetes, but scientists think it has something to do with genes. But just getting the genes for diabetes isn't usually enough. In most cases, a child has to be exposed to something else — like a virus — to get type 1 diabetes,” says

Not all cases of type 2 diabetes are a result of lifestyle choices. While excessive weight gain and a sedentary lifestyle are factors that can put a child at risk for type 2 diabetes, they aren’t solely to blame. Children with one or more family members with type 2 diabetes are at an increased risk and certain ethnic groups tend to be more prone to the disease. The best way to help reduce your child’s risk of health complications down the road is to encourage a healthy diet and lifestyle. If you suspect your child may be overweight or at risk for diabetes, speak with your doctor.

To learn more on this topic:
Pass Along Good Eating Habits to Your Children
First-born May Bear the Burden of Diabetes
My Family's Got It — Type 2 Diabetes