Improving HbA1c levels could reduce the risk of diabetic polyneuropathy among adults with type 2 diabetes, research suggests.
In a new Danish study, each 1% (11 mmol/mol) increase in HbA1c levels among adults with type 2 diabetes during a 10-year period increased polyneuropathy risk by nearly 66%.
The new research used data from the ADDITION-Denmark study, with Aarhus University scientists looking to analyse the risk factors of polyneuropathy. Polyneuropathy develops when peripheral nerves are damaged in multiple parts of the body, such as affecting the feet on both sides of the body. Symptoms can include weakness, numbness, and burning pain.
In a 13-year follow up of the trial, 452 people aged between 40-69 had various health factors measured including HbA1c and cholesterol. The health markers, which were measured at the start of the study and at six and 13 years, were then analysed to compare between those who developed polyneuropathy during follow-up and those who didn’t.
While advanced age and diabetes duration were among the greater risk factors for polyneuropathy, there was a significant risk association with higher baseline HbA1c and sharp HbA1c increases over a 10-year period.
“This study indicates that the rate of increase in HbA1c affects the development of [diabetic polyneuropathy] over and above the effects of the baseline level of HbA1c, even within ranges considered well-controlled,” said the authors. “Higher baseline levels of HbA1c and higher obesity levels were associated with higher risk of [diabetic polyneuropathy].”
Signe Anderse, a doctoral fellow with the department of public health at the Aarhus University in Denmark, said: “Hyperglycemia is considered the most important risk factor for the development of diabetic polyneuropathy in type 1 diabetes.
“A more complex risk factor profile exists for [diabetic polyneuropathy] in type 2 diabetes, as intervention trials have failed to show a clear effect of enhancing glucose control on the risk of [diabetic polyneuropathy].”
The findings have been published in the journal Diabetes Care.
Editor’s note: Keeping a well-controlled HbA1c is important to help control and eventually reverse type 2 diabetes, and our Low Carb Program can help guide you on the foods and lifestyle choices to keep your HbA1c at a healthy level.

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