It's just another part of life for 7-year-old Espen Yeckel. "I'm ok with it," he says. But his parents wonder why he has type 1 diabetes and his sister Amanda does not. No one else in the family has it either.
Espen's mother, Ellen, says, "We would really like to know. We haven't spent that much time thinking about it because we assume that we're not going to ever really know what triggered it for him."
The Yeckels wonder if it was something in the environment. Researchers wonder too. Now, they want to prove it.
All the research has been too small to prove an absolute link. Now, scientists are about to embark upon the largest study ever to look at the environmental causes of type 1 diabetes. Eight thousand high-risk newborns will be followed for 15 years.
"Just by avoiding a certain food or avoiding it in the first year of life or getting a vaccine for a viral infection -- a common viral infection -- it may be possible to decrease the risk of future diabetes substantially," says Dr. Hagopian, from Pacific Northwest Research Institute in Seattle, Washington.
Up to 1.7 million people in the United States are living with type 1 diabetes. It's most commonly diagnosed in childhood -- in fact, the risk of developing type 1 diabetes is higher than virtually all other severe chronic diseases of childhood.
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