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Issue 202 Item 2 Family Stress Puts Kids At Diabetes Risk

Apr 7, 2004

Experiencing stress at home could put kids at risk of developing the juvenile, or type 1, form of diabetes. Family Stress Puts Kids At Diabetes Risk
Experiencing stress at home could put kids at risk of developing the juvenile, or type 1, form of diabetes.

This disease occurs when the immune system mistakenly destroys the beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, a hormone that allows the body to use the sugar glucose for energy. People with this form of diabetes need daily insulin injections to survive.

“Our studies support the hypothesis that stress in the family causes stress among the children, which in turn leads to greater strains on the beta cells that regulate the secretion of insulin,” says Anneli Sepa, a developmental psychologist at Linköping University in Sweden.


The research involved 17,000 Swedish children born between 1997 and 1999 and their parents.

The scientists took blood samples from the youngsters and looked for two antibodies that signal an elevated diabetes risk. At the same time, the parents responded to a questionnaire about the life situation within the family. The sampling and the questionnaires were carried out on three occasions: at birth, at one year of age and 2.5 years of age.

Children of parents experiencing a high level of stress were more likely to show warning signs of diabetes.

Divorce and violence against the mother were associated with a threefold greater risk among the 2.5-year-old children. However, the most common stress factors consisted of more everyday things like difficulty sleeping and not being content with the role of parent.

Children included in the studies have not yet been genetically tested for type 1 diabetes. Approximately 20 of them have developed the disease, but their data remain to be analyzed.

Earlier studies have indicated several factors may underlie childhood diabetes. They include the parents’ socioeconomic status, family history, age, childhood infections, caesarean sections and neonatal intensive care. Stress may be the common denominator that triggers the faulty immune system reaction in the children.

Which Women With Diabetes Should Take Vitamins?
A simple blood test could determine whether older women with diabetes would benefit from or be harmed by vitamins. The researchers from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology said the the test screens for genetic variations in a blood protein called haptoglobin. Diabetic, post-menopausal women who carry two copies of the variation known as haptoglobin-2 increase their risk of atherosclerosis, or narrowed arteries, if they take doses of the antioxidant vitamins C and E, the researchers said.
Diabetes Care, April 2004


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