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Child/Adolescent Health

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Low-dose insulin does not affect weight or physical development of children at risk for developing type 1 diabetes

A low-dose insulin treatment over 2 years does not affect the weight, body mass index (BMI), or physical development of children and adolescents at risk for developing type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes, according to a study supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS00063). The study did not find that insulin, at the low dose that was used, either promotes or protects against weight gain.

Harvard Medical School researcher Erinn T. Rhodes, M.D., M.P.H., and colleagues compared differences in weight change, BMI, and physical development between two groups of predominantly white children and adolescents (aged 4 to 19) who had more than a 50-percent risk of developing type 1 diabetes within 5 years. They randomized 100 children and adolescents into 2 groups. The first group (55 children) received injections of low-dose insulin twice daily and an annual intravenous insulin infusion. The second group (45 children) were closely monitored and did not receive either insulin or a placebo.

The researchers found no differences over 2 years between the 2 groups for changes in weight, height, BMI, or Tanner stage (child's stage of growth and development). One explanation for the lack of change is that the central nervous system effects of insulin (weight loss) and peripheral nervous system effects (weight gain) may be mutually offset because of the low dose of insulin used in the study. More research is needed to validate these findings in other pediatric groups.

See "Effect of low-dose insulin treatment on body weight and physical development in children and adolescents at risk for type 1 diabetes," by Dr. Rhodes, Joseph I. Wolfsdorf, M.B., B.Ch., David D. Cuthbertson, M.S., and others in the August 2005 Diabetes Care 28(8), pp. 1948-1953.

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