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Study reports less frequent severe hypoglycemia in milder climates

Lisa Foster-McNulty, MSN, RN, CDE


A thermal “comfort zone” of 10-20 degrees Celsius (that’s 50-68 degrees Fahrenheit) may be ideal for blood glucose (BG) levels in people with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, while BG drops have been linked to temperatures outside this range.  The research was published online in The Journal of Diabetes and its Complications.

In higher temperatures, episodes of severe hypoglycemia increased by 18%, and by 15% in colder climates, when compared to the “comfort zone,”  according to an observation of 2,500 people living in the Hamburg area.  The observation might be of clinical relevance, but lead researcher Mario Hensel, MD, from the Park-Klinik Weissensee hospital in Berlin said that the underlying mechanisms of this interesting phenomenon are unknown and so for now the discussion should remain theoretical.

The researchers looked at weather data and patient data for patients who were treated for severe hypoglycemia by emergency services  physicians.  Only 8% of hypoglycemic episodes took place outdoors.  But when the researchers looked specifically at severe hypo episodes that happened outside, the rate jumped to 21% in higher temperatures and 13% in cooler temperatures.

Comparing this data with information from Hamburg University’s weather station, temperatures were linked to within one hour of each emergency call-out.  No heat waves or colder temperature extremes were recorded during the study.  Dr. Hensel and his colleagues concluded, “As people adapt to their local climates, through physiological, behavioral, and cultural adaptation, our findings cannot automatically be transferred to other climate zones.  However, information on local or regional temperature-health relationships can be important in establishing temperature health warning systems.”

It would seem that paying a bit more attention to your glucose levels when you are spending time outdoors and outside of the “comfort zone” temperature range might be a prudent thing to do!          


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