A new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has revealed a worrying increase in the rate of type 1 diabetes in Australian children.
The AIHW report says in the period between 2000 and 2006 there was a 3 per cent rise in cases of children aged 14 years and younger diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and this is a concern because the rates have fallen for people 25 years or older and stabilised for those aged 15 to 24.
The report shows that in this age bracket between 2000 and 2006, there were over 6,000 new cases of type 1 diabetes and it is unclear why. This rate of increase in type 1 diabetes is higher than that of other countries.
While the exact cause of type 1 diabetes is still unknown, experts suspect it occurs because of a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Type 1 diabetes also known as juvenile-onset or insulin-dependent diabetes, differs from type 2 diabetes or adult onset diabetes which is linked to poor diet, lack of exercise and being overweight.
Type 1 diabetes is caused in most cases by the autoimmune destruction of the cells of the pancreas that produce insulin, which is needed for the body to take up glucose from the blood to be used as an energy source, people with type 1 diabetes need insulin replacement in order to survive.
Katherine Faulks, a researcher in the AIHW's cardiovascular, diabetes and kidney unit, says Australia has the sixth-highest rate of type 1 diabetes in the world.
Ms Faulks says the study results are consistent with other studies showing that the incidence is increasing among children but not among young adults and more research is underway into why the rates have changed.
Ms Faulks says Australia's average annual rate of new cases of type 1 diabetes among children is high compared with other countries.
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation says the findings increase the urgency for investment in research into type 1 diabetes, to prevent new cases and ultimately deliver a cure for the 140,000 Australians affected.