Type 1 diabetes study to improve the health of Wales

Swansea University researchers have been awarded more than £68,000 to investigate ways of reducing the risk of Type 1 diabetes patients developing potentially fatal hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose) during and after exercise.

The research award, which has been made by the Welsh Assembly Government's Welsh Office for Research and Development for Health and Social Care, will fund a three-year PhD studentship for Swansea Sports Science graduate Daniel West, aged 22, from Sketty.

In addition to the new PhD studentship, the project will draw on the expertise of Dr Richard Bracken from the Department of Sports Science and Professor Stephen Bain and Dr Jeffrey Stephens from the School of Medicine, who are clinicians at Singleton and Morriston Hospitals, respectively.

Project leader Dr Richard Bracken said: “People with diabetes are advised to take regular exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle. However, patients face an increased risk of hypoglycaemia during and after exercise, which may predispose those individuals to syncope, coma, or even death.

“Strategies to prevent exercise-induced hypoglycaemia in patients with Type 1 diabetes are unclear. Providing definitive advice on insulin therapy and diet prior to exercising is complex, in part due to the interactions of different insulin preparations, different doses, food intake, and the timing of insulin administration before exercising. We will examine the impact of these factors on the glucose concentrations after exercise.”

Dr Jeffery Stephens, a Physician at Morriston Hospital and a Clinical Senior Lecturer in Swansea's School of Medicine said: “This novel work will improve the quality of life for patients with Type 1 diabetes allowing them to participate in exercise with a reduced risk and burden of hypoglycaemia.”

Stephen Bain, Professor of Diabetic Medicine at Swansea's School of Medicine added: "This grant adds to our developing research focus in Diabetes and Exercise, which is a collaboration between the Department of Diabetes at Abertawe Bro Morgannwg (ABM) University NHS Trust, the Department of Sports Science, and the Institute of Life Science within Swansea University."

The research results will hopefully lead to improvements in the quality of advice for the Type 1 diabetes patient that can be employed in an effort to reduce the incidence of hypoglycaemia following exercise.

This information could then be used by clinicians and specialists involved in diabetes care alongside the fitness industry, e.g. those employed in GP referral schemes, to prescribe safe recommendations to Type 1 diabetes patients undergoing exercise training programmes.

“We are delighted to have been awarded this award, which will enable us to carry out this valuable work to inform the care and treatment of Type 1 diabetes patients in Wales,” added Dr Bracken.

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