High Blood Sugar in Children May Slow Brain Growth

Chronic high blood sugar in young children may lead to slower brain development, new research by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has shown.

The study evaluated 144 children ages 4–9 who had type 1 diabetes for about 2.5 years. Brain structure and function measured by MRI scans were compared to 72 healthy children and siblings. Researchers discovered a significantly slower brain growth overall and in specific brain regions. Study authors reported slowed growth in the brain's gray matter, although the extent of which was difficult to quantify.

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Results of this study challenge the current theory that young children with type 1 diabetes can be allowed to maintain higher than normal blood sugar since consistently low levels could increase the child's seizure risk. Researchers also found varied high and low blood sugar levels in these pediatric patients, which raise further concerns about brain function.

Significant cognitive differences between healthy children and those with type 1 diabetes were not found, but researchers predict an extended study with the same groups of children may show similar changes as well.

For more information visit NIH.gov.