Critically High Blood Sugar, Critical Science

In recognition of CHE’s 10th anniversary, colleagues who have been particularly instrumental to shaping CHE this past decade will be invited to write an introduction. This month’s introduction is by Sarah Howard, who serves as the national coordinator for CHE’s Diabetes-Obesity Spectrum Working Group.

“It’s critically high,” the ER nurse informed me, describing my toddler’s blood sugar level. She had just pricked his tiny finger, but it wasn’t enough; she needed a blood draw to see how just how high it really was. Two nurses held down my son, while I tried to comfort him, while he screamed, while they prodded and poked, failing to hit a vein. The pediatric team was called in, and eventually he slept while I heard the result: 798, a number seared in my memory forever, a dangerously high blood sugar level. My 23-month-old little boy had diabetes.

That was five years ago, almost 10,000 needles ago. After the shock of his diagnosis wore off, I started reading more about type 1 diabetes. I found out that type 1 incidence was increasing in children—in 58 different countries around the world. That the increasing type 1 incidence was due to some environmental factors, that genetics alone could not explain it. That the increase was most rapid in the youngest children, the children who, like my son, developed diabetes before their fifth birthday party. This much was clear. What was not clear was why.

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What’s really behind the increase in autism rates.

CHE partner Alice Shabecoff,  co-author with her husband Philip of the book Poisoned for Profit: How Toxins Are Making Our Children Chronically Ill.

The just-released data on autism shows a count of one in 88 children, up from a rate of one in 100 three years ago, and one in 150 five years ago.  With each change, the response remains the same: Oh, that’s because of better detection and broader definitions.

How, then, to account for the sharp increase in childhood asthma—15.7 percent higher today than ten years ago? Or an increase of the same magnitude in preterm births? Or the indisputable fact that childhood cancer has climbed an inexorable one percent, year after year, over the past thirty years?  As has Down Syndrome. And among rarer illnesses, too, the rates keep going up and up—from the increase in malformations of the penis among newborn boys, to the doubling in a generation of endometriosis, a deformity of the uterus, among girls.

There is no way that these wildly different childhood illnesses can be chalked up to, and written off as, an increase in detection and/or diagnosis.

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