Between 2001 and 2009, the incidence of type 1 diabetes increased by 23%, according to The American Diabetes Association. Finland also showed a similar increase. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body's own immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, while Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes, occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or cannot use the insulin adequately.
Earlier studies have shown that genetics and environmental factors cause autoimmune diseases. The researchers discovered that children and teenagers suffering from type 1 diabetes have complications, such as nerve damage, that could lead to amputations.
Furthermore, the team found that early signs of cardiovascular damage increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the future.
Virginia T. Ladd, President and Executive Director of the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), explained:
"With the rapid increase in autoimmune diseases, it clearly suggests that environmental factors are at play due to the significant increase in these diseases. Genes do not change in such a short period of time."
The incidence of celiac disease, which causes the body's immune system to attack the small intestine, is also on the rise, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center. In the United States, 1 in 133 people are affected by celiac disease.
Dr. Frederick Miller of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences also believes that the increase in autoimmune diseases derives from a persons' surroundings.
"The best way to combat the rise in autoimmune diseases is to do research to understand the genetic and environmental risk factors for them, so that those who are at highest risk for developing disease after certain environmental exposures might be able to minimize those exposures and prevent the development of autoimmune disease."