According to the World Health Organization, around 347 million people worldwide suffer from diabetes. Although most of them are cases of type 2 diabetes, a significant number of people are those who suffer from type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is characterized by inability of a person’s body to produce insulin per body metabolic requirements. There have been many studies which link diabetes with other debilitating problems. A recent study looked at children aged 4-9 years who had type 1 diabetes and compared their development to those of children who were healthy.
The research was conducted by Dr. Nelly Mauras and her team at the at Nemours Children’s Clinic, Jacksonville, who assessed these children through brain test and various scans. They monitored their blood glucose levels very closely and analyzed and evaluated their cognitive skill, which mainly consists of the children’s thinking and memory.
“Our results show the potential vulnerability of young developing brains to abnormally elevated glucose [blood sugar] levels, even when the diabetes duration has been relatively brief,” Dr. Mauras, said who is the chief of the endocrinology division at the Nemours Children Clinic.
The researchers said that the scans showed cortical thinning and slower growth in the gray and white matter of diabetic children with poorly controlled blood glucose levels. However, the cognitive skills in these children showed no decline. The researchers have still shown concern over the structural changes which may produce significant problems later in life but they admit that more research is needed on the subject.
“Despite the best efforts of parents and diabetes care teams, about 50 percent of all blood glucose concentrations during the study were measured in the high range. Remarkably, the cognitive tests remained normal, but whether these observed changes will ultimately impact brain function will need further study,” explained Dr. Mauras.
Patients who had better controlled blood glucose levels did not show so much developmental delay as those who had a poor control of their blood glucose levels to an almost abnormally high limit.
“As better technology develops, we hope to determine if the differences observed with brain imaging can improve with better glucose control,” she concluded.
The research was published in the journal Diabetes.