Youth with Type 2 diabetes more likely to have significant complications later in life

February 28, 2017

A new report, co-authored by a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researcher and published in the Feb. 28 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), indicates that adolescents and young adults with Type 2 diabetes bear a significantly higher burden of potential diabetes-related complications – especially among minority youth with this disease – than do their peers with Type 1 diabetes.jama-logo1

The report, “Association of Type 1 Diabetes vs Type 2 Diabetes Diagnosed During Childhood and Adolescence With Complications During Teenage Years and Young Adulthood,” written by researchers involved with the nationwide National Institutes of Health/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth study, looked at five health complications and comorbidities of diabetes, including retinopathy (eye disease), diabetic kidney disease, peripheral neuropathy (altered sensation in the feet), arterial stiffness and high blood pressure.

Professor Beth Mayer-Davis.

Dr. Beth Mayer-Davis

“It’s easy to think that youth or young adults don’t need to worry yet about the long-term complications of diabetes, including kidney disease, eye disease or heart disease,” said Elizabeth Mayer-Davis, PhD, Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor of nutrition and medicine and chair of the Department of Nutrition at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health. Mayer-Davis is co-author of the paper and the SEARCH study’s co-chair. “We found that early signs of these complications are quite common, especially for Type 2 diabetes.”

The researchers studied 1,746 adolescents and young adults with Type 1 diabetes and 272 with Type 2 diabetes. Their findings showed that, after less than eight years following a diagnosis, approximately one-third of teenagers and young adults with Type 1 diabetes and almost 75 percent of those with Type 2 diabetes had at least one health complication or comorbidity. Additionally, any adjustment for differences in age, sex, race/ethnicity and levels of glucose control over time did not remove the excess prevalence among those with Type 2 diabetes.

“It’s critical to learn more about best ways to reduce risk for long-term complications and to sustain good health for those living with diabetes, including both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes,” Mayer-Davis said.

Since 2000, the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth study has monitored the burden of diabetes in youth with onset less than 20 years of age. Five U.S. clinical centers and principal investigators participated. Along with Mayer-Davis, the SEARCH co-chair at UNC’s Gillings School who also collaborated with the University of South Carolina’s School of Public Health, the researchers and centers included the study’s first author and study co-chair Dana Dabelea, MD, PhD, Conrad M. Riley Endowed Professor of epidemiology at Colorado School of Public Health; Catherine Pihoker, MD, of Seattle Children’s Hospital; Jean Lawrence, MD, MPH, of Kaiser Permanente, Southern California; and Lawrence  Dolan, MD, of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. The study’s central laboratory is at the University of Washington’s Northwest Lipid Research Laboratory and is overseen by Santica Marcovina, PhD, DSc; its Coordinating Center is at the Wake Forest School of Medicine and is co-directed by Ralph D’Agostino, PhD, and Lynne Wagenknecht, DrPH.

SEARCH is funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or

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