Exercising control of insulin

Exercising control of insulin

Dr Daniel West, a Lecturer in Clinical Exercise Physiology from the Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences, has received more than £17,000 of funds from Diabetes UK to investigate strategies that will help people with Type 1 diabetes – an autoimmune disease that prevents the body producing insulin – avoid low blood glucose levels following exercise.

Exercise has many benefits for people with diabetes, with the main benefit being an improvement in their long term blood glucose management. However, physical activity can make blood sugar levels drop below normal levels, causing hypoglycaemia, which can lead to confusion, collapse and, if untreated, coma. People with Type 1 diabetes who self-administer insulin as part of their treatment need to adjust their insulin dose following exercise but there has been little research into the best strategy they should use in order to best maintain blood sugar levels.

This new project, run in collaboration with Professor Mark Walker, director of the Clinical Research Facility (CRF) at the Royal Victoria Infirmary (Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust) and Newcastle University, and Dr Mike Trenell, clinical exercise physiologist at the CRF and Newcastle University, aims to find out the most effective way for people with Type 1 diabetes to manage their insulin doses after exercise.

Dr West and Matthew Campbell, a Northumbria University PhD student, will run the clinical exercise trials along with a team of clinical research nurses and are currently recruiting volunteers for the study.

Dr West said: “Managing insulin therapy and diet can be difficult enough for people with Type 1 diabetes, and exercise adds an extra layer of difficulty. The fear of experiencing dangerous falls in blood sugar is why many people with diabetes don’t even engage in exercise.

“The point of this research is to look at the dose of insulin that someone with Type 1 diabetes should take after exercising in order to compensate for the increase in the potency of insulin that occurs with exercise. Currently, people work things out through trial and error due to the lack of information that is available. We hope our findings will help provide useful information for diabetes care staff, as well as patients, on managing post-exercise insulin dose to help avoid hypoglycaemia after exercise.”

Medtronic, a medical technology manufacturer, has donated new continuous glucose monitoring equipment which will be used during the study. The iPro2TM continuously measures sugar levels for long periods of time without the need to take blood samples.

Dr West said: “This device will allow us to see how the adjustment of insulin dose will affect glucose concentrations for 24 hours after exercise; importantly overnight, where hypoglycaemia can be a frequent and problematic occurrence.”

Dr West is currently recruiting participants to take part in the research. The team are looking for people with Type 1 diabetes, aged between 18 and 50, who are currently regularly exercising and using a combination of slow and fast acting insulins.

If you would like more information on taking part in this study, contact Dr West at [email protected] or call 0191 243 7086.