TV And Blood Sugar Control In Children With Type 1 Diabetes

Just a “heads up” about a medical study that will likely make a big spash nationally. I read in my local newspaper (the Columbia Tribune) this afternoon that researchers at the University of Oslo found a direct relationship between the number of hours of TV watched per day and the average blood glucose level in children with type 1 diabetes. The study is to be published in the June issue of the journal Diabetes Care. The results are not a big surprise but I will be very interested in analyzing the report when I can get my hands on it and then writing about it.

What does TV have to do with blood sugar control?

In people with diabetes, many factors affect the blood sugar level but in general it is a tug-of-war of sorts between factors that use up sugar in the blood and those that increase the sugar level (let’s use the term “glucose” instead of “sugar,” since it’s really the molecule glucose we are talking about when when use the word “sugar” when referring to the “blood sugar level’). Anyway, eating food will increase the blood glucose level as will insufficient insulin which allows the liver to release stored glucose into the blood. It’s not so simple; there are other things that will tend to increase the blood glucose level including stress (hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline (epinephrine) raise the blood glucose level) but these factors all do it through effects on the liver’s glucose stores.

Factors that tend to lower the blood glucose level include the hormone insulin, through decreases in the liver’s release of stored glucose and increases in tissue use of glucose, and through exercise, which can stimulate glucose uptake by muscles even independent of insulin.

So, sitting around and watching TV means less exercise and it may mean more munchies, both of which would tend to result in higher blood glucose levels.

Is this information of any relevance to people who do not have type 1 diabetes?

For people who do not have type 1 diabetes, this report is a reminder that sitting around watching TV for hours and hours might not be such a good idea- what we see as higher blood glucose levels in people with type 1 diabetes will likely be seen as weight increases in people who do not have diabetes (in people with type 1 diabetes, high blood glucose levels usually mean high urine glucose levels and thus loss in calories, limiting weight gain if the high blood glucose levels are due to excessive caloric intake). Is there anything much worth watching on TV anyway?

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