Health: Diabetes rate doubles in children

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Diabetes in children under five has doubled in ten years and an environmental factor is almost certainly the cause, doctors say. A study in the Oxford region also found that diabetes in older children under 15 was increasing at a rate of 4 per cent a year.

Possible causes include exposure to cow's milk early in life or to vaccinations, but the researchers, writing in the British Medical Journal, note that it is "difficult to explain the apparently remorseless increase in incidence over three decades on any of these grounds".

Professor Gale, chief author of the study, said: "The results are very dramatic. An increase on such a scale cannot be put down to genetic factors alone. The cause must therefore be environmental." Diabetes in early childhood has a greater impact on the patients and their families and a worse prognosis for complications in later life, he said.