The ease of controlling blood glucose levels in children with type 1 diabetes could be affected by family background, a Danish study has suggested.

According to the study by the University of Copenhage, children’s blood glucose levels may actually be linked to the level of their mothers’ education.

Nick Nielse, who led the research, said: “One of the first explanations that comes to mind is that unequal access to healthcare may be a factor linking family background and blood sugar levels.”

However, the researcher explained that there is universal tax-financed access to healthcare in Denmark, so instead the team explored associations between diabetes self-management and the education of a mother.

They examined data on 4,079 children with type 1 diabetes, who were diagnosed with the condition from 2000 to 2013. Researchers spilt the children into four groups based on the level of their mothers’ education.

There were 1,643 had mothers without a college education, while 1,548 had completed vocational or a two-year college course and 695 had degrees, with 193 having master’s degrees.

The results revealed that HbA1c decreased as the level of education went up.

Children born to mothers with advanced degrees had HbA1c levels of 7.6% on average, with children whose mums had bachelor’s degrees averaged 7.9%. This compared with 8.2% in youngsters with mothers who graduated from vocational or two-year colleges courses and then 8.4% where the mother had no higher or further education.

Additionally, there were lowers rates of diabetic ketoacidosis in youngsters with mothers of higher education.

Youngsters from more highly educated mothers had their blood glucose levels checked most often, which the researchers said could explain a large part of the difference.

The researchers commented that: “For clinicians and policymakers, our results suggest that it may be beneficial to provide extra support to the least privileged children during the first few years of diabetes.”

Nielsen advised that healthcare professionals could set up patient groups so that mothers could share what works for their children:

“In these groups, families could help support each other outside the clinic. We think that this increased decentral support could be valuable due to the importance of peer support and everyday advice and knowledge sharing”.

The research was published in the journal Diabetes Care.

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