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Diabetes Care. 2011 Jan;34(1):198-203. doi: 10.2337/dc10-1371. Epub 2010 Oct 7.

Repeated episodes of hypoglycemia as a potential aggravating factor for preclinical atherosclerosis in subjects with type 1 diabetes.

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Endocrinology and Diabetes Unit, Hospital Clínic, Barcelona, Spain.



To evaluate through early preclinical atherosclerosis assessment whether repeated episodes of hypoglycemia represent an aggravating factor for macrovascular disease in type 1 diabetes.


After sample-size calculation, a case-control study of 25 patients with type 1 diabetes and repeated severe/nonsevere hypoglycemia (H-group) compared with 20 age- and sex-matched type 1 diabetes control subjects (C-group) was designed. Assessment of preclinical atherosclerosis consisted of flow-mediated brachial dilatation (FMD) and carotid and femoral intima-media thickness (IMT) studies. To consider hypoglycemia awareness, two different questionnaires and symptomatic response to an acute induction to hypoglycemia were used. Evaluation of the glycemic profile was obtained from continuous glucose monitoring. Endothelial function/inflammation markers were measured in euglycemia/hypoglycemia. A multivariate linear regression analysis was performed to test whether repeated hypoglycemia was independently associated with atherosclerosis.


H-group subjects displayed hypoglycemia unawareness and presented a higher percentage of continuous glucose values and area under the curve <70 mg/dl compared with the C-group (14.2 ± 8.9 vs. 6.3 ± 7.1%, P < 0.02 and 2.4 ± 1.8 vs. 0.6 ± 1.0 mg/dl/day, P < 0.01). The percentage of maximal FMD was lower in the H-group than in the C-group (6.52 ± 2.92 vs. 8.62 ± 3.13%, P < 0.05). A significantly higher IMT was observed at both carotid and femoral sites in the H-group (carotid 0.53 ± 0.09 vs. 0.47 ± 0.08 mm, P < 0.05 and femoral 0.51 ± 0.17 vs. 0.39 ± 0.09 mm, P < 0.05). Baseline inflammation and endothelial function markers were higher in the H-group (leukocytes 7.0 ± 1.8 vs. 5.6 ± 1.4 × 10³/ml, von Willebrand factor 119 ± 29 vs. 93 ± 26%, fibrinogen 2.82 ± 0.64 vs. 2.29 ± 0.44 g/l, and soluble intercellular adhesion molecule-1 408 ± 224 vs. 296 ± 95 ng/ml; P < 0.05 for all).


In addition to the induction of hypoglycemia unawareness and an increased risk for severe hypoglycemia, repeated hypoglycemia could be related to and considered an aggravating factor for preclinical atherosclerosis in type 1 diabetes. The precise mechanisms explaining this association remain to be clarified.

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