Researchers find no benefit to aggressive blood sugar lowering

Excessively high blood sugar is one of the main reasons for complications in individuals with type 2 diabetes, but aggressively lowering these levels may not be necessary. A new study from a team of German researchers shows that bringing glucose levels to near normal levels has few health benefits.

Given the fact that high blood sugar is the primary problem created by type 2 diabetes, much research has focused on how to lower glucose levels. Some doctors have even proposed using medications to bring blood sugar as close to within a normal range as possible, the belief being that this will limit the damage caused by persistently high glucose. However, this may not be the case.

For the study, researchers from the German Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Healthcare reviewed the findings of seven previously published studies involving more than 28,000 participants. These investigations looked at the effect of aggressively lowering blood sugar to near normal levels.

In terms of all-cause mortality, fatal heart attacks, strokes, end-stage renal disease, amputations and blindness, the researchers found no benefit to intensive glucose-lowering treatments, compared to more conservative approaches that simply lower blood sugar from dangerous levels.

In fact, the only real difference noted by the researchers was that those who pursued aggressive glucose lowering experienced more frequent hypoglycemic events, which can be dangerous for diabetics, often resulting in loss of consciousness or other health problems.

The researchers said that given the fact that intensive glucose-lowering treatments failed to impact many of the most common causes of death among individuals with type 2 diabetes, the strategy may not be worth the effort. Furthermore, the findings could help doctors design more targeted treatments for patients.

"If doctors are faced with the question as to what they can specifically offer to their diabetes patients, whether they should lower blood glucose levels as much as possible, and in which patients this a promising (or less promising) approach, they still do not receive satisfactory answers," said Jurgen Wendeler, director of the Institute.