Latin America is among the regions with the highest diabetes-related burden. Research and treatment programs have increased in number and complexity in recent years, but they are focused in type 2 diabetes, because this condition explains a large proportion of the cases. In contrast, the information regarding the epidemiology of type 1 diabetes is scant in this area. Here, we analyze the available information on this topic and identify potential areas of opportunity to generate new knowledge through the study of type 1 diabetes in Latin Americans.
Both, the prevalence and the incidence of type 1 diabetes, are lower in Latin American countries compared to that reported in Europe, North America, southern Asia and northern Africa. Biologic and methodological factors may explain the smaller contribution of type 1. The presence of some putative 'protective' environmental exposures or the absence of those prevalent in a region may explain the lower type 1 diabetes prevalence observed in most Latin American countries. However, the number and quality of the diabetes registries are not enough in this region. During the past decade, the incidence of type 1 diabetes has grown worldwide. The same trend has been reported in Latin America. This epidemiologic transition is a unique opportunity to identify interactions between rapidly changing environmental factors in subjects with different genetic backgrounds (such as the admixed Latin American populations). Finally, on-going therapeutic initiatives in this region are highlighted.