snow_210x157An interesting new research study has found evidence that Polish children with type 1 diabetes, aged between 7 and 18 years old, experience seasonal fluctuations in their HbA1c levels.

Recently published in the scientific journal Diabetologia, the study found the highest HbA1c levels during February, November and December, whilst August and September showed the lowest levels. All HbA1c measurements from 677 children and young people under 18 years old were tracked for a three year period. The research team found that levels varied throughout the year by approximately 0.5% (18 mmol/mol). Interestingly, no significant variations were observed in the records of children aged 7 and under.

Weather patterns were recorded over the same period, showing that seasonal temperature and sunshine levels follow a similar pattern to changing HbA1c levels. Although it is tempting to draw conclusions from this correlation, this research does not tell us why the HbA1c levels might be affected.

To answer this question, the researchers involved are keen to point to previous studies linking increased exercise to lower HbA1c levels. As children in colder climates are less active in the winter months, they could be at risk of increased HbA1c levels in the winter. However the effect could also be attributed to other factors, including vitamin D deficiency (as sunshine is needed to synthesise vitamin D in the skin) or to weather independent factors such as school stress, seasonal infections, or diet.

Rachel Connor, Head of Research Communications said: “This research offers an interesting insight into factors that may affect HbA1c levels. Good blood glucose control is vital to prevent complications later in life, which is why JDRF is investing in research to help make this as easy as possible for people with type 1 diabetes. 

This is not the first time that scientists have investigated seasonal changes in type 1 diabetes. Research has shown evidence of seasonal variations in HbA1c levels in adults, although not previously in children. Furthermore, in August 2009 JDRF reported on an international study describing seasonal patterns in the rate of type 1 diagnosis. Countries with greater seasonal temperature variations experienced a peak in type 1 diagnoses in winter.