Patients with type 1 diabetes could regain their ability to tell when blood sugar levels are low by regularly doing short bursts of high-intensity exercise, according to a preliminary study in animals.
The findings, presented today at the Society for Endocrinology annual conference, could potentially lead to a non-drug based treatment for a potentially life-threatening condition.
“Our breakthrough could represent a non-drug based treatment for this seriously debilitating and potentially deadly condition”
A quarter of people with type 1 diabetes eventually lose the ability to recognise when their blood glucose levels are low, a condition known as hypoglycaemia unawareness, which puts them in danger of losing consciousness or falling into a coma.
Scientists at the University of Dundee studied rats that had been exposed to repeated hypoglycaemic conditions over a period of four weeks.
The rats were split into three groups, each of which was made to either, exercise at low intensity, exercise at high intensity or do no exercise at all.
The scientists found that 24 hours after exercising the rats exposed to high intensity exercise had the fastest and most effective response to the hypoglycaemia.
Lead study author Alison McNeilly said: “Hypoglycaemic episodes are an unavoidable part of life for those living with type 1 diabetes.
“After a few years some people with type 1 diabetes might not even know they are suffering from one of these episodes and this puts them at high risk of severe hypos,” she said.
She added: “While there are no treatments available for the management of hypoglycaemia unawareness, our breakthrough could represent a non-drug based treatment for this seriously debilitating and potentially deadly condition.”
The Dundee research team are currently setting up a trial to test their theory in type 1 diabetes patients.