Is having kids the diabetes cure?

If you have type 1 diabetes, having children might help you live longer, according to new research published at this week's annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.

The lowered mortality risk was more pronounced for women than men, challenging previous research that suggests type 1 diabetes is associated with a shorter lifespan.

Both men and women with childhood-onset type 1 diabetes tend to have fewer children than individuals without the disease, but a lifetime of having to be vigilant about their health could actually improve mortality rates in diabetic people with children, the research team speculated.

The study

Researchers analyzed type 1-diabetics from the Finnish DERI (Diabetes Epidemiology Research International) cohort. Each person was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 17 or younger, and of 5,162 cases, 2,327 were women. For each person in the DERI cohort, two non-diabetic control patients were selected from the Social Insurance Institution database that matched for birth year, geographical region and gender.

The effects of having children were examined based on four categories: no children, one child, two children or more than three children. For both diabetics and controls, having more children was linked to lower mortality, cutting mortality rates in half overall.

"Among females, having children lowered mortality in a similar way in diabetic persons and controls," said Dr. Lena Sjöberg of the University of Helsinki. "In males, this difference was less pronounced."

Explanations

Researchers said the gender differences may have to do with the learned habits of diabetic self-care.

"One possible reason for this gender difference is that women with type 1 diabetes are trained and well-motivated to achieve better metabolic control during pregnancy and that this motivation may persist also post partum," Sjöberg explained.

A limitation of the study, however, is that it did not account for people who did not have children – nor for those who had fewer children than they wanted – because of circumstances out of their control.

"Partly, the differences in mortality between childless persons and persons with children are probably due to the fact that those with serious health problems choose not to have children," Sjöberg concluded.

Source: Eureka Alert

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