Type I DiabetesA new study out of Australia shows that environmental factors including viruses and toxins are at play in the development of type I diabetes. The study, which was published in the Diabetes Care Journal, looked at each new case of type I diabetes in Western Australia over the last 25 years and found a strong cyclical pattern.

About every five years, a mini-epidemic of type I diabetes would appear, and then the occurrence would drop off again in a cyclical pattern. The difference between peak years and low years was sometimes as high as 20%. This significant swing in the outbreak of diabetes shows that environmental causes play a major role in the development of type I diabetes. According to the data, the Australian researchers believe that the next mini-epidemic of type I diabetes will occur this year.

Genetics Are Not the Lone Cause of Diabetes

Researchers with the American Diabetes Association have known all along that type I diabetes is not simply a genetic disorder. While genes do play a significant role in whether or not a child will develop type I diabetes, scientists know that genes alone are not the cause. Cases involving identical twins have proven this. Identical twins have exactly the same genes, yet when one twin has type I diabetes, the odds are under 50% that the person’s twin will develop the autoimmune disease.  Furthermore, research shows that out of 100 people suffering from type I diabetes, 80% do not have family members with the disease, proving diabetes does not always stem from genetics.

Identifying Environmental Factors that Result in Type I Diabetes

The interesting thing about the recent study is that the discovered patterns can be analyzed alongside environmental data to try to determine which environmental factors might have the greatest impact upon whether a person will develop type I diabetes. Many possible triggers exist including viruses and exposure to toxins. The researchers of the study compared the results to another pattern discovered in northern England and found both patterns to be almost identical, even though the two locations have very different climates and demographics.

While much research must still be done to determine which exact environmental causes might be playing a part in the increase of type I diabetes, researchers say they are anxious to move forward with their studies to identify root causes.