Research confirms the need for diabetics to achieve blood sugar goals

by Barbara Hewitt on January 20, 2014

New research underlines the importance of people with diabetes achieving their blood sugar goals in terms of reducing the risk of complications from the condition.


Research shows maintaining recommended blood glucose levels will not lead to complications in the longer term

Researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School in the UK, examined the eyes, kidneys and heart of 99 people with a specific genetic change called Glucokinase Maturity Onset Diabetes of the Young, or MODY, which means they have elevated blood glucose levels from birth.

International guidelines have proposed that patients with diabetes should keep their HbA1c, a measure of long term glucose control, below 7.5% but there has been a void of evidence on the long term health impacts of maintaining these blood glucose levels, which are higher than in people without diabetes.

These higher levels mimic guidelines issued to people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes and the study aimed to establish whether they had complications commonly linked to diabetes, and previously associated with high blood sugar levels.

They found no significant difference in the levels of complication when compared to a control group who did not have the genetic change. They said that the study participants’ who had higher levels of blood glucose for nearly 50 years had the same risk of diabetes complications as their relatives.

‘This research is relevant to the 200 million worldwide who have diabetes, and who can now be assured that maintaining the recommended blood glucose levels will not lead to complications in the longer term. It is reassuring to know that having a slightly raised blood sugar even for 50 years is safe,’ explained Professor Andrew Hattersley who led the team at the university.

Among the participants was Sue Parkes, 66, who lives near Crediton in Devon, who has had a raised glucose level all her life due to a change in the glucokinase gene. Full tests of her eyes, kidneys, heart and feet showed no ill effects of this.

‘It was a relief to know that having a high sugar for 66 years has not given me any of the health problems that can occur in diabetes,’ she said.

Dr Alasdair Rankin, director of research at Diabetes UK, a leading diabetes charity that funded the research, said the study should provide reassurance for people with Glucokinase MODY.

‘They will be reassured that the moderately raised blood glucose levels they experience from birth appear not to cause an increase in the many potentially devastating long term complications of diabetes,’ he pointed out.

‘People with other types of diabetes tend to have higher and more variable blood glucose levels than people with MODY and for many achieving the recommended blood glucose levels is extremely difficult,’ he explained.

‘This study provides encouragement for people with type 2 diabetes that achieving current blood glucose targets will reduce complications, but it’s also vital to keep to your recommended targets for blood pressure and cholesterol,’ he added.

The research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, was based at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Exeter Clinical Research Facility at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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