Women With Type 1 Diabetes Have 40% Greater Death Risk Than Men

Type 1 diabetes is much more deadly for women than it is for men, according to a new study, possibly because some women take too little insulin in an attempt to keep down their weight.

The chronic disease, which prevents the body from producing insulin, increased women’s risk of death by about 40 percent compared with men with the same condition, according to the paper published Thursday in the journal Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology. For the analysis, researchers pooled 26 studies and examined data on almost 200,000 people across the globe. It was the first large-scale analysis to find a sex difference in mortality rates for the disease.

Type 1 diabetes, which is diagnosed in about 30,000 people in the U.S. each year, is increasing among children globally at an annual rate of 3 percent. It may be more devastating for women because some regulate their weight by underusing insulin, according to Rachel Huxley, one of the paper’s authors.

“A small group of women don’t give themselves enough insulin, either as a way of maintaining weight or losing weight,” Huxley, a professor at the University of Queensland in Australia, said in a phone interview. Without enough insulin, glucose increases to dangerous levels. “Too much glucose causes damage to the blood vessels, and it’s a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.”

The study compared the total effect of diabetes on each gender, in effect controlling for the fact that men have a higher death rate than women.

The disease may also hurt women disproportionately because hormones related to the menstrual cycle can alter how much insulin is required to regulate glucose, Huxley said.

“It’s very difficult to reliably inject yourself with sufficient insulin to maintain a steady blood glucose, but for women it might be more difficult because of the hormonal variations that are happening every day,” Huxley said.

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