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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UNC: Impact of Weight Management in Kids with Type 1 Diabetes can Shape Adulthood Experiences

When it comes to managing weight, challenges faced by adolescents with Type 1 diabetes (T1D) are compounded in young adulthood and influence the habits they form as they get older. This is according to new findings from a research team lead by Dr. Elizabeth Mayer-Davis, Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor of nutrition and medicine at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health.

The study was published in the November issue of Pediatric Diabetes.

Dr. Mayer-Davis and her team – which included doctoral scholars Ms. Daria Igudesman, Ms. Anna Kahkoska, Mr. Franklin Muntis and clinical research assistant Ms. Katherine Souris from the Gillings School – recognized that the dual burden of managing weight and blood sugar made it difficult for adolescents to adopt best practices for co-managing the two. Building off a prior study in children with T1D aged 12-17, Dr. Mayer-Davis and co-authors analyzed experiences of young adults with T1D aged 18-25 to identify themes that evolved between the two demographics.

Controlling blood sugar and weight can be an arduous task for adolescents with T1D. The level of sugar bound to hemoglobin in the blood increases during this age range and remains elevated until around age 30. Adolescence is also the time when children establish habits for self-care and weight management that persist into adulthood.

Weight struggles for those with diabetes can be exacerbated by insulin intensification – a gradual increase in the amount of insulin needed to maintain glycemic control. “When insulin dosing is being pushed up in order to help people maintain their blood sugar, weight tends to go up,” Dr. Mayer-Davis explained. This might cause a person to take less insulin for fear of weight gain, which causes blood sugar to creep up.

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