Physical activity around the time people are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes could have long-term health benefits, a study suggests.
It is believed that around 60% of adults newly diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes experience a “honeymoon” period.
This means the beta cells in their pancreas are still working and their body is still sensitive to insulin, which means they do not need much of it.
Scientists at the Universities of Birmingham and Exeter studied 17 people from three clinics in the UK who had all been recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and who were doing significant levels of exercise.
They were matched with people who had also being recently diagnosed and were the same age, sex and weight, but not doing any exercise.
They found that those who exercised had a “honeymoon” period that lasted on average four times longer (28.1 months) than those who did not exercise (7.5 months).
Type 1 diabetes is a serious, lifelong condition where the body cannot make insulin. Without careful treatment, this can cause blood glucose levels to be too high and increase the risk of life-changing complications, such as sight loss and kidney disease.
Currently 4.6 million people in the UK have diabetes, and around 10% of these have Type 1 diabetes.
Lead author Dr Parth Narendran, of the University of Birmingham, said: “Our data demonstrates exercise could play an important role for people newly diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
“We propose that exercise prolongs honeymoon through a combination of improving how the body responds to insulin and preserving the function of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
“This could have important benefits in people with Type 1 diabetes, including improved blood glucose control, less episodes of hypoglycaemia and a reduced risk of diabetes-related complications.
“There is now a need for clinical trials to investigate whether exercise can prolong the duration of honeymoon and to explore the mechanisms underlying this.”
Rob Andrews, an associate professor at the University of Exeter Medical School, added: “Our study provides further evidence that exercise in newly diagnosed patients with Type 1 diabetes can delay the progression of the disease.
“During the honeymoon it is easier to control blood glucose, with fewer swings and less risk of dangerously low blood glucoses, so anything that can prolong this needs to be encouraged.”