Kiwi study could help babies avoid brain damage

Kiwi study could help babies avoid brain damage

Kiwi scientists have made a breakthrough in helping to prevent a common cause of brain damage in babies.

According to a new study, led by the Liggins Institute at the University of Auckland, stabilising blood sugar levels in new-borns with hypoglycemia can prevent brain damage.

Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is a risk for up to 30 percent of babies, and the study's lead researcher, Distinguished Professor Jane Harding, says it’s the single most preventable cause of brain damage in new-borns.

The study examined 404 children who were born at risk of hypoglycemia at Waikato Hospital, and identified that by keeping their blood-sugar level above a safety threshold there was no increase in the risk of brain damage.  

Researchers also found that babies who had blood-glucose levels that rose too high or which fluctuated widely during the first 48 hours of their lives were more likely to have brain damage.

“It may be that it’s not only important to keep blood glucose levels from dropping too low, but also to keep them from swinging too high, too fast, but we need further studies to confirm that link," says Professor Harding.

Glucose is the sugar on which the brain depends most for fuel.  The main factors that put a baby at risk of low blood glucose are being born preterm, small or large at birth, or having a diabetic mother.

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