Reporter 400, 21 April 1997

Nitrate clue to childhood diabetes

Clear links between increased levels of nitrate in water and the incidence of diabetes in children have been established by researchers at the University's Centre for Health Services Research.

The Yorkshire-wide study, the first ever to examine the issue in detail, identified much higher levels of childhood diabetes in rural areas up to 25 percent greater where nitrate levels in water were up to four times higher than in urban locations.

Increased nitrate levels are largely caused by agricultural run-off from fertilisers. The study analysed data supplied by Yorkshire Water plc - but all samples surveyed were below the recommended EU limits.

Environmental factors are major determinants in causing diabetes in children as fewer than one in ten young diabetics have a relative with the illness. The majority of adults who suffer from diabetes are non-insulin dependent; for children, diabetes means a lifetime of daily insulin injections.

Further studies are now needed to establish whether the link is causal, said project leader Dr Tricia McKinney, Director of the Paediatric Epidemiology Group.

The research by Dr McKinney, Dr Jonathon Bodansky, Consultant Diabetologist at the LGI, and others, will be published in May's Diabetologia, Europe's leading scientific journal on diabetes.

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