The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) recently released its sixth edition of their Diabetes Atlas. This atlas includes global data on diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance, and general demographics. The sixth edition updates global data on diabetes from 2011. Among the wealth of data on diabetes, the atlas includes a specific dataset on incidence of type I diabetes.
The IDF used a systematic approach to gathering data. They collected peer-reviewed studies and research as well as gathered information from organizations such as the CDC and WHO. Along with this atlas, the IDF is currently compiling all studies into an online library.
Overall, they found that diabetes is increasing in every country and that 382 million people worldwide have type 1 and type 2 diabetes, up 20 million from just two years ago. For type 1 diabetes specifically, the atlas documents that more than 79,000 children developed the disease in 2013.
Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease which usually occurs in early life. What happens is that the body’s immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas (called beta cells). This leads to the body not being able to produce the insulin needed to mobilize glucose into the energy it needs. T1D is sometimes referred to as insulin-dependent diabetes.
Researchers have been interested in a potential link in T1D and vitamin D due to vitamin D’s ability in making the immune system smarter. They’re wondering if getting enough vitamin D may be able to prevent T1D later in life. And, some observational research has shown that vitamin D at an early age may help prevent T1D.
If vitamin D does play some role in the prevention of T1D, might there be a relationship between latitude and risk of T1D, much like we see for latitude and MS?
Researchers have explored the geographical variation of T1D the last five years. A study from 2008 found that incidence of T1D varies, for example, from 0.1 new cases per 100,000 boys in China to 37 new cases per 100,000 boys in Finland. China sits at a latitude of 35 degrees compared to Finland at 64 degrees.
When we look at the data compiled from IDF, we can see that there does appear to be some relationship between latitude and T1D.