The following is excerpted from an online article posted by MedicalXpress.
In a multi-site study of medical records, researchers at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and across the United States say they have documented a steep rise in type 2 diabetes among children during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a report on the findings, published recently in The Journal of Pediatrics, the investigators note it is unclear whether the virus infection itself was a factor in the rise, and they point to the switch to virtual learning and the shutdown of sports and school activities as “environmental factors” that likely increased risk.
Before the pandemic, type 2 diabetes was increasing among children around the world, and because rates of childhood diabetes are known to rise and fall over time, the investigators launched a nationwide review of medical records to assess the impact of the pandemic, according to Sheela N. Magge, M.D., M.S.C.E., director of the Division of Pediatric Endocrinology at the Children’s Center.
Magge, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and co-first author of the paper, says reduced physical activity and weight gain are well-known risk factors for type 2 diabetes. “During the COVID-19 lockdown, children were removed from normal day-to-day routines like going to school, playing sports and other hobbies,” Magge says. “Not only were they less physically active, they were confined to their homes and spent a lot more time watching TV, playing video games, or with other electronic devices.”
For the new study, conducted in collaboration with the University of Colorado School of Medicine, the researchers compared the rates of new-onset type 2 diabetes among people aged 8 to 21 in the two years prior to the pandemic (March 1, 2018, to Feb. 29, 2020) to the first year of the pandemic (March 1, 2020, to Feb. 28, 2021).
The researchers identified 3,113 pediatric patients during that period, age 8 to 21 and from 24 centers across the U.S. The average number of new diagnoses per year in the two pre-pandemic years increased from 825 to 1,463 during the first year of the pandemic, an increase of 77%.
During the first year of the pandemic, the records showed that more boys (55%) were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes than girls (45%), a reversal of the percentages during the pre-pandemic years. “This was one of the more unusual findings from our study,” says pediatric endocrinologist Risa Wolf, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and co-first author of the paper. “Typically, we see more girls than boys who are newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, though it’s unclear why.”