Diabetic Kids May Have Slower Brain Growth

   |  Updated: December 22, 2014 20:25 IST


If your child suffers from diabetes, this piece of news may worry you. According to a latest study published in the journal Diabetes, young children with type 1 diabetes have slower brain growth when compared to their non-diabetic peers. The study states that continued exposure to hyperglycemia, or high blood sugars, may be detrimental to the developing brain.

"Our results show the potential vulnerability of young developing brains to abnormally elevated glucose levels, even when the diabetes duration has been relatively brief," said Nelly Mauras, Chief, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism at Nemours Children's Clinic in Jacksonville, and lead author of the study. Mauras and colleagues studied brain development in children with type 1 diabetes, ageing between four and nine years. They used structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and cognitive tests to determine if abnormal blood glucose levels impact brain structure and function at a young age.

The children also underwent blood sugar monitoring using continuous glucose sensors. It was found that the brains of children with diabetes showed slower overall and regional growth of gray and white matter as compared to children without diabetes. These changes were associated with higher and more variable blood sugar levels.

Although there were no significant differences in cognitive function between groups at 18-months, the brain imaging results suggest that children with type 1 diabetes had differences in brain maturation as compared to children without diabetes. Some of the areas of brain that were affected are key in visual-spatial processing, executive functions and working memory.

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"Despite the best efforts of parents and diabetes care team, about 50 per cent of all blood glucose concentrations during the study were measured in the high range," said Mauras.

"Remarkably, the cognitive tests remained normal, but whether these observed changes will ultimately impact brain function will need further study. As better technology develops, we hope to determine if
the differences observed with brain imaging can improve with better glucose control," added Mauras.


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