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Type I diabetes may affect IQ, study

Posted:  Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A first of its kind study followed the intelligence quotient (IQ) of type I diabetes patients right from diagnosis in childhood in to young adulthood. The results showed that type I diabetes could affect some aspects of IQ.

Published in the Diabetes Care journal, these findings revealed the selective impact of specific disease risk factors on IQ. The researchers prospectively followed 95 type I diabetes patients admitted at the time of diagnosis to the Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, Australia, between 1990 and 1992. They compared this group with 67 healthy controls.

They used the revised versions of the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence, Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, and Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence for measuring full-scale IQ, verbal IQ, and performance IQ. They also prospectively collected data on metabolic control history. At the final follow up, the patients with diabetes and the control group had an average age of 21.3 years.

In the 12 years following diagnosis, the researchers found that young people with type 1 diabetes exhibited lower verbal IQ [word knowledge and abstract verbal conceptual reasoning] and full scale IQ (a composite IQ measure for both verbal and performance domains). A mean change of -7.84 was noted in the verbal IQ score and a mean change of -6.12 was recorded in the full scale IQ score.

In comparison, the mean change in healthy participants over the same time period was -6.46 in verbal IQ and -5.58 in full-scale IQ scores. Among the groups, those diagnosed with type I diabetes early and those with recurrent hypoglycaemic episodes recorded greater decline in both the verbal and full scale IQ scores.

"We know that, years after diagnosis, young people with type 1 diabetes show lower IQ, particularly if they are diagnosed early — age 5 or younger — or have a history of hypoglycaemic seizures," said the researchers. In that respect, they found that diagnosis at an earlier age was associated with a decline in the visuospatial aspects of IQ, while hypoglycaemic seizures appeared to affect verbal IQ.

The researchers suggest monitoring the academic progress of type I diabetes patients and providing educational support wherever required. Good glycaemic control in these patients could also delay the negative effects on the IQ.

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