Study: Hypoglycemic newborns not at higher risk for poor school work as they age

Children who had hypoglycemia as newborns are not at higher risk for poorer academic performance later in life, according to a new study. Photo by Stevepb/Pixabay
Children who had hypoglycemia as newborns are not at higher risk for poorer academic performance later in life, according to a new study. Photo by Stevepb/Pixabay

March 22 (UPI) -- Children who had hypoglycemia at birth are not more likely to perform poorly in school compared to those who did not have the condition, a study published Tuesday by JAMA found.

Of children who were hypoglycemic, or had low blood sugar, at birth, 47% later had documented low education achievement, the data showed.


In comparison, 48% of those who did not have hypoglycemia at birth later experienced low educational achievement, the researchers said.

In addition, 31% of children who were not hypoglycemic as newborns were later rated by teachers as being below or well below the curriculum level for reading, according to the researchers.

This figure was 24% for children who were hypoglycemic as newborns, they said.

"Episodes of low blood glucose after birth may have permanent adverse effects on thinking, learning and coordination," study co-author Dr. Chris McKinlay told UPI in an email.

However, "we found that ... children affected by low blood glucose after birth, compared to those not so exposed, were able to achieve similar outcomes at mid-childhood," said McKinlay, an associate professor of neonatology at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.

About one in six children globally is born with hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, and many children have no outward symptoms, according to the World Health Organization.


It is the most common metabolic disorder of infancy, and it can cause permanent brain injury, previous studies have found.

This is because newborns' brains rely on glucose, or blood sugar, as fuel, they said.

Most newborns have "transitional hypoglycemia," or low blood sugar due to a delayed changes in where they get their glucose from, according to the researchers.

In the womb, glucose is supplied by the placenta initially before transitioning to the liver, the researchers said.

Hypoglycemia at birth is usually caused by poor nutrition for the mother during pregnancy, poorly controlled diabetes in the mother and incompatible blood types between mother and baby, among other factors, according to Stanford Children's Health.

The findings of this study are based on an analysis of data on 587 children, most of whom were assessed for academic performance at age 9 or 10 years.

More than half of the children included in the study had hypoglycemia as newborns, the researchers said.

The low academic performance of nearly half the children in the study "suggests that the underlying risk factors for neonatal hypoglycemia, such as late preterm birth, fetal growth restriction and maternal diabetes ... may have a greater effect," the researchers wrote.


To limit the risk for complications from hypoglycemia for their newborns, parents should "ensure that they are screened for gestational diabetes and, if diabetes occurs, aim to achieve good control of glucose levels," McKinlay said.

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