Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Low Blood Sugar in Newborns Linked to Later Difficulties

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A newborn condition affecting one in six babies has been linked to impairment in some high-level brain functions that show up by a child’s fifth birthday.

An international research team following 614 New Zealand babies born at risk of low blood sugar levels found that children who had experienced the condition were up to three times more likely to have difficulties with executive function (skills for problem-solving, planning, memory and attention) and visual-motor co-ordination (skills for fine control of movement, and understanding what you see) at age 4.5 years than children who had normal blood sugar levels.

Overall, the lower the blood sugar levels, or the more often they dropped, the greater the impairment was. Children who had experienced a drop in blood sugar that was not detected using routine blood sugar monitoring were four times more likely to have difficulties with these skills. There was no link with lowered intelligence as measured by IQ.

The findings were published in JAMA Pediatrics.

Low blood sugar affects up to 15% of all babies, and is the only common preventable cause of brain damage in infancy. At-risk babies – up to one-third of all born – are those born premature, smaller or larger than usual, and babies whose mothers have diabetes.

Health guidelines say at-risk babies should be tested with heel-prick blood tests...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.