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Kids of parents with type 1 diabetes more likely to struggle in school

The research included 622,073 children between 6 and 18 years old.

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By Mark Waghorn via SWNS

Kids of parents with type 1 diabetes are more likely to struggle at school, according to new research from Denmark.

However because the same effect was observed whether the father or mother had the metabolic condition, researchers believe it is not connected to the child's development in the womb.

Pupils raising their hands during class at the elementary school
The research came from Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark. Kids aged between 6 and 18-years-old were studied for 7 years.
(ESB Professional/Shutterstock)

It was thought that maternal high blood sugar during foetal development might be to blame.

But the latest research seems to reflect a different cause.

In type 1 diabetes the immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, preventing the body from making enough of the hormone to regulate glucose levels.

The influence of diabetes during pregnancy on the cognition of children has been widely researched.

Lead author Dr. Anne Spangmose, of Copenhagen University Hospital, said: "These results are reassuring for women with type 1 diabetes.

"One of their main concerns is whether dysregulation of diabetes during their pregnancy may cause impaired cognitive development in their coming children.

"This study is, to our knowledge, the first to present evidence of an alternative explanation for the previously observed adverse effect of maternal type 1 diabetes during pregnancy on offspring cognitive development."

Glucose crosses the placenta and maternal high blood sugar, hyperglycaemia, can affect the baby’s brain.

But there is little evidence on the effect of having a father with type 1 diabetes.

Dr. Anne Spangmose and colleagues obtained data from Danish registers and also on test scores in math for grades three and six, and reading for grades two, four, six and eight.

The team included 622,073 children between 6 and 18 years old attending public schools over a seven-year period.

There were 2,144 children with mothers with type 1 diabetes, 3,474 children with fathers with type 1 diabetes, and 616,455 children from the background population.

Children of mothers and fathers with type 1 diabetes had mean scores of 54.2 and 54.4 respectively - compared with 56.4 from the background population.

Stressed middle school student taking examination at desks in school gymnastics hall
The study, involving 622,073 kids, was published in PLOS Medicine. (Juice Flair/Shutterstock)

The team acknowledge that having a parent suffering from a serious chronic disease like diabetes could cause stress and be detrimental to a child's school performance.

But the study suggests a different explanation for previously observed adverse effects of maternal type 1 diabetes during pregnancy on children's cognitive development.

Added Dr. Spangmose: "Lower test scores in the offspring of mothers with type 1 diabetes appear to reflect a negative association of having a parent with type 1 diabetes rather than a specific adverse effect of maternal type 1 diabetes during pregnancy on the foetus.

"Our recent large Danish cohort study, including 622,073 children, has shown this."

The study is in PLOS Medicine.

Type 1 diabetes is a genetic condition that often shows up early in life. It affects about 1.3 million U.S. adults, according to the CDC.

Type 2 diabetes is the form associated with unhealthy lifestyles and normally develops later in life.

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