Diabetes Awareness Month

Here at CHRIM, diabetes is a key part of our research and something we work to bring awareness to during Diabetes Awareness Month and throughout the year.

Dr. Elizabeth Sellers is a pediatric endocrinologist at the Children’s Hospital and a researcher within the Diabetes Research Envisioned and Accomplished in Manitoba (DREAM) theme at CHRIM. In this video blog, we asked Dr. Sellers about youth-onset type 2 diabetes, how Indigenous children are disproportionately affected by it, and the new research data that suggest rates are on the rise.

Watch the video below, created in support of diabetes awareness month and read on to learn more about both type 1 and 2 diabetes in children:


Type 1 Diabetes in Children:

Type 1 diabetes used to be called juvenile-onset diabetes. It is usually caused by an auto-immune reaction where the body’s defense system attacks the cells that produce insulin. The reason this occurs is not fully understood. People with type 1 diabetes produce very little or no insulin.

The disease may affect people of any age, but usually develops in children or young adults. People with this form of diabetes need injections of insulin every day in order to control the levels of glucose in their blood. If people with type 1 diabetes do not have access to insulin, they will die. – International Diabetes Federation

What does this mean for children in Manitoba?

  • About 65-75 children are newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes every year in Manitoba, consistent with national rates.
  • Type 1 diabetes rates in Canada are quite a bit higher than in other parts of the world.
  • Rates of type 1 diabetes are increasing – about 3 per cent each year in Manitoba.

When I started my practice in 2000, we used to see about 50 newly diagnosed young people every year with type 1 diabetes in the pediatric years. Now we see about 75 newly diagnosed each year.

Dr. Elizabeth Sellers, Pediatric Endocrinologist / CHRIM Researcher

Type 2 Diabetes in Children:

Type 2 diabetes is the fastest growing chronic illness in Canada, and Manitoba has one of the highest rates of type 2 diabetes in children in the world. Type 2 diabetes used to be called “adult-onset diabetes” because we didn’t think it occurred in children.

In 1985, one of our leading diabetes doctors and investigators, Dr. Heather Dean, discovered the first case of type 2 diabetes in a child. Since then, CHRIM has become one of the world’s top research centres for type 2 diabetes.

  • The majority of youth with type 2 diabetes are diagnosed in the early adolescent years (however specialists have seen kids as young as four with type 2 diabetes).
  • Manitoban clinicians see 10-25 times the rate of type 2 diabetes in children than anywhere else in the country.
  • Approximately 84 per cent of all youth with type 2 diabetes in Manitoba are of Indigenous descent.

About 10 years ago, Dr. Sellers took part in a national surveillance study that demonstrated new-onset type 2 diabetes in children occurred about 1-2 children per 100,000 in Canada. At that time, it was about 13 youth per 100,000 in Manitoba developed type 2 diabetes.

Preliminary data from a repeat study shows that those numbers have doubled across the country and either tripled or quadrupled in Manitoba.

Dr. Elizabeth Sellers, Pediatric Endocrinologist / CHRIM Researcher

What are we doing to combat this devastating disease?

One of our research themes, Diabetes Research Envisioned and Accomplished in Manitoba (DREAM), works towards excellence in epidemiological and basic science research in the area of obesity and type 2 diabetes complications in youth, and makes important discoveries that will lead to better prevention and treatment of this disease.