Researchers are beginning to unravel many of the mysteries of diabetes and brain development.
Now a new University of Iowa study suggests that not only do the brains of Type 1 diabetes sufferers grow more slowly, but also that extreme blood sugar fluctuations also cause problems.
The study, “Assessment of Neuroanatomical and Cognitive Differences in Young Children with Type 1 Diabetes: Association with Hyperglycemia Abstract,” discovered that the young children enrolled in the study with high blood sugar levels as well as those with the most fluctuation experienced the slowest brain growth.
These findings were recently published in the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes journal.
According to University of Iowa spokesman Tom Moore, study findings show that while too-low glucose levels can cause seizures or coma, high blood sugar levels might be harmful.
“This study shows we need to strike a balance between high blood sugar levels and low sugar levels, and avoid those extremes,” said UI pediatric endocrinologist Eva Tsalikian, one of the study’s research associates.
Tsalikian explained that better control of glucose levels could make it “the less likely that a child’s brain development will be affected.”
The study examined brain structure and cognitive function in 144 young children with Type 1 diabetes as well as a comparison group of 72 children without diabetes. MRI scans over more than a year and a half monitored brain development in both groups of kids. Results showed slower growth in multiple areas of the brain for children in the diabetes group.
“Young children with (Type 1 diabetes) have significant differences in total and regional gray and white matter growth in brain regions involved in complex sensorimotor processing and cognition,” according to the research.
Pediatric endocrinologist Michael Tansey, who assisted in the research, said that emerging technology — like continuous blood sugar monitors — “could help prevent large swings in blood sugar levels.”