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Latest research results from an important long, running type 1 diabetes research study shows that maintaining strong control of type 1 diabetes to be associated with a significant reduction in the risk of early death.

Type 1 diabetes research study details

The analysis comes from the EDIC (Epidemiology of Diabetes Control and Complications) study which is a follow up of the ground breaking Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT). 1,441 participants with type 1 diabetes were included in the analysis.

The initial DCCT study ran between 1983 and 1993. At the start of the study, participants were aged between 13 and 39 years old and had had diabetes for between 1 and 15 years. The DCCT dictated that participants be split into two groups, as follows:

  • Conventional therapy group involved controlling blood sugar levels but not within any strict targets – average A1c was approximately 9%
  • Intensive therapy group involved aiming to control blood glucose levels to meet a 6% A1c target – average A1c was approximately 7%

Participants maintained these forms of treatment for an average of 6.5 years and then were able to continue controlling their diabetes without strict targets of control. The EDIC part of the study has involved regular follow up of the study participants to assess presence of diabetes complications.

In total, including the initial DCCT study period and the EDIC follow up period, the participants were monitored for an average of 27 years.

Results

The results showed that there were 33% fewer deaths within the ‘intensive therapy’ group than the ‘conventional therapy’ group. It is worth pointing out that in modern times, intensive therapy has become the convention now with the majority of adults with type 1 diabetes encouraged to maintain an HbA1c of below 7.0% as long as this does not raise the risk of severe hypoglycemia (very low blood sugar levels).

Intensive treatment was most notably linked with lower rate of deaths by cardiovascular disease, kidney disease and cancer. However, the researchers note that as the overall numbers of death were relatively small, the results of death by specific causes have low statistical significance.

It is worth noting that the initial DCCT study, in which the groups followed different treatment regimens, was a relatively short period of time (average 6.5 years) and yet brought far reaching benefits in terms of lower death rates.

The results invite continued research into how control of diabetes influences rates of death across a large cross-section of people with type 1 diabetes to see whether prolonged strong control over a number of decades has even stronger effects in lower risk of death.

In addition to the lower rates of death, other analyses of participants in the EDIC study have shown that participants in the intensive group have also benefitted from significantly lower rates of diabetes complications.