High blood glucose in kids may slow brain growth

January 15, 2015

Children with chronically high blood glucose levels are more likely to show slower brain growth than children with normal glucose levels, a new study has found.

Children with chronically high blood glucose levels are more likely to show slower brain growth than children with normal glucose levels, a new study has found.

Using magnetic resonance imaging scans and neurocognitive tests, researchers examined brain structure and function at baseline and at an average of 18 months later in 144 children aged 4 to 9 years with type 1 diabetes and 72 healthy children matched for age, body mass index, and socioeconomic status. They monitored blood glucose continuously and hemoglobin A1c quarterly for all the children.

The children with diabetes had markedly slower brain growth overall and in certain gray and white matter areas of the brain. The slower growth was associated with higher cumulative blood sugar elevations and variable glucose levels, but not hypoglycemia. The researchers conclude that “chronic hyperglycemia may be detrimental to the developing brain.”

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Although they found no differences in cognition and executive function between the diabetic children and controls, the researchers surmise that an ongoing study with the same children may reveal cognitive changes as well. The regional changes in growth affected gray and white matter involved in complex sensorimotor processing and cognition, they note. 

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