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Type 1 Diabetes Causes

Causes of Type 1 Diabetes

Diabetes refers to a chronic, debilitating and fatal disease where the human body either can’t produce insulin or it can’t properly make use of the insulin that it produces. Insulin usually controls the glucose (sugar) levels in the bloodstream.

Diabetes results to high levels of blood sugar, which might damage organs, nerves and blood vessels. There are 2 main types of diabetes:

Type 1 Diabetes vs. Type 2 Diabetes

Knowing the major types of diabetes will help you in understanding the symptoms as well as treatment options available.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes normally occurs when one’s immune system attacks and kills beta cells in the pancreas. Very little insulin is thus released to the body. Consequently, sugar will build up in the body rather than being used as a source of energy.

Nearly 5% of people suffering from diabetes have this type of diabetes. The Type 1 diabetes typically develops in adolescence or childhood.

However, it can still develop in adulthood. This diabetes type is always treated using insulin. Proper meal planning will also help to keep blood sugar levels at the right amount.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes generally occurs when one’s body can’t make proper use of the insulin that’s released (known as insulin insensitivity) or it doesn’t make adequate insulin. As such, sugar will build up in the blood rather than being used as a source of energy.

Around 90% of individuals with diabetes have this type. Type 2 diabetes mostly develops in adults even though children can also be affected. Based on the severity of the disease, it might be managed through meal planning and physical activity. It might also require medications to effectively control blood sugar.

Focusing On Type 1 Diabetes

It isn’t quite clear on what usually triggers type 1 diabetes. Even though health experts know that human genes play an important role here (there’s inherited susceptibility), something has to set off one’s immune system. This causes it to turn against itself thus leading to type 1 diabetes.

Genes Play A Vital Role In Type 1 Diabetes

Some people can’t develop this type of diabetes simply because they lack the genetic coding which experts have linked to the type 1 diabetes.

Researchers have discovered that type 1 diabetes might develop in individuals with a certain human leukocyte antigen (HLA) complex. HLA functions to trigger immune response within the body.

There are numerous HLA complexes which are associated with this diabetes type, and nearly all of them are found on chromosome 6.

The HLA complexes might lead to development of several other autoimmune disorders like ankylosing spondylitis, juvenile rheumatoids arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. Just like these conditions, this type of diabetes must be triggered by a certain factor—mostly a viral infection.

Type 1 Diabetes Causes

Young Girl Drinking Milk

Researchers have figured out that whereas some individuals have genetic predispositions to type 1 diabetes, there’s likely to be environmental factors that trigger initial development of this disease. Some of the causes of type 1 diabetes include:

  1. Increased insulin demand
  2. Vaccines
  3. Cow’s milk
  4. Low levels of vitamin D
  5. Viral infection
  • Increased Insulin Demand

Increased insulin demand has been put highlighted as a major contributing factor to type 1 diabetes. A study that was conducted by University of Colorado in 2008 revealed that diets with higher glycaemic index foods can speed up progression of type 1 diabetes among children with islet autoimmunity signs.

The growth phase which kids go through during their teenage years usually increases the insulin amounts released into the blood. This might lead to additional stress on the beta cells thus raising the risks of their immune system attacking insulin producing cells.

  • Vaccinations

Another theory that has been put forward in regard to type 1 diabetes is that children vaccinations might increase chances of developing this disease.

One renowned researcher, J B Classens has been investigating type 1 diabetes incidences in animals as well as the human population. His research shows that there’s a strong link between this type of diabetes and the childhood vaccinations like Hib vaccines, smallpox and tuberculosis.

The research hasn’t been accepted conclusively enough to change the vaccination schedules. One interesting fact about tuberculosis vaccines, also called BCG vaccine, is the fact that besides being linked with incidences of type 1 diabetes, the vaccine has also been used as a vaccination against the type 1 diabetes.

  • Cows’ milk

A further theory regarding causes of type 1 diabetes is that cow milk is linked with the development of this condition. Researches have revealed that early introduction of cow milk is associated with high risks of having type 1 diabetes.

Researchers have discovered that bovine insulin found in cow milk might be one of the risk raising factors.

A Finnish study conducted in 2012 revealed that taking insulin free cow milk resulted into reduced numbers of autoantibodies among children aged 3 years, thus leading to a low risk of suffering from type 1 diabetes complications.

  • Vitamin D

A link between type 1 diabetes and vitamin D has also been drawn. Health experts have realized that that countries recording highest instances of the type 1 diabetes normally tend to be situated far away from the Equator.

Countries like Canada, Australia, the UK and Scandinavia countries have notably higher type 1 diabetes rates.

Research has also shown that individuals with low vitamin D levels have a higher rate of developing this type of diabetes. A considerable number of studies have gone forward to show that vitamin D supplementation lowers the risk of type 1 diabetes complications.

  • Viral Infection

Associations have also been discovered between different viruses and type 1 diabetes. Of these viruses, enteroviruses have drawn the most attention from the researchers.

Researches have revealed that the enterovirus antibodies were recorded at relatively high levels in the pregnant mothers of kids that have developed type 1 diabetes at a later stage in their life. Increased enterovirus infection frequencies have also been shown in kids who develop the type 1 diabetes as compared to those that haven’t developed the condition.

Final Point

Researchers have indeed made significant progress when it comes to understanding the main causes of type 1 diabetes.

Besides that, they are still working hard to find out why some viruses trigger this condition and why the T cells usually turn against the beta cells in the body. The medical fraternity wants to have a better understanding on diabetes so as to prevent it.

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