Diabetes Treatment

Helps Babies' Health

Women who develop diabetes during pregnancy give birth to healthier babies if they are aggressively treated, according to a large study that helps bolster the case for testing all pregnant women for diabetes.

In the study, Australian researchers followed 1,000 women diagnosed with gestational diabetes. During their third trimester, the women were separated into two groups: One group was taught to manage their diabetes through a special diet, blood sugar monitoring and insulin therapy. The other group received regular prenatal care.

Although complications are uncommon, they were four times lower among babies of mothers who were aggressively treated. No babies born to the 490 women getting more aggressive care died. There were three stillbirths and two other infant deaths among the 510 mothers who received regular care.

Women who tightly controlled their diabetes were less likely to deliver large babies weighing more than 8 pounds -- 21 percent of babies whose mothers underwent regular prenatal treatment were oversized compared with 10 percent in the other group. Researchers also compared depression and mood in 573 mothers three months after delivery and found that women who were rigorously treated fared better.

Results of the study will be published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday and were to be presented yesterday at an American Diabetes Association meeting in San Diego.

Gestational diabetes affects 3 percent to 7 percent of pregnant women in the United States, a number that is on the rise because of the growing obesity problem.

Diabetes Care Improves;

Flawed Diagnoses Seen

For years, public health officials have urged people to do simple things to manage their diabetes: Watch blood sugar levels, eat a healthy diet and exercise.

Their message appears to be working.

Figures released Saturday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that far fewer Americans with diabetes are ending up in the hospital or developing kidney failure -- a sign that diabetes care has improved. From 1994 to 2002, the rate of diabetes-related hospitalizations fell from 55 to 36 per 1,000 diabetics. Similarly, the rate of diabetes patients with kidney failure dropped from 327 to 229 per 100,000 population from 1996 to 2002, the CDC said.

"We are at last improving the quality of life for diabetics," said Alan D. Cherrington, president of the American Diabetes Association and a professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, who was not connected to the study.

However, a separate CDC and National Institutes of Health study led by Diana Petitti of Kaiser Permanente of Southern California found that 31 percent of children diagnosed with Type 2, the diabetes linked to obesity, actually had Type 1 and needed insulin to survive. Researchers said children's obesity may be throwing doctors off track. Both studies were presented at the American Diabetes Association meeting in San Diego.

The number of people with diabetes of both types has tripled in the past two decades to an estimated 18 million Americans, but more than 90 percent have Type 2. It is the sixth leading cause of death, and complications can include heart, kidney and nerve disease.

-- Associated Press