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In children using intensive insulin therapy, a 20-g variation in carbohydrate amount significantly impacts on postprandial glycaemia


Carmel Smart, Diabetes Dietitian, Department of Paediatric Endocrinology, John Hunter Children’s Hospital, Locked Bag No. 1, Hunter Region Mail Centre, Newcastle, NSW 2310, Australia.


Diabet. Med. 29, e21–e24 (2012)


Aim  To determine if an insulin dose calculated for a meal containing 60 g carbohydrate maintains postprandial glycaemic control for meals containing 40, 50, 70 or 80 g carbohydrate.

Methods  Thirty-four young people (age range 8.5–17.7 years) using intensive insulin therapy consumed five test breakfasts with equivalent fat, protein and fibre contents but differing carbohydrate quantities (40, 50, 60, 70 and 80 g of carbohydrate). The preprandial insulin dose was the same for each meal, based on the subject’s usual insulin:carbohydrate ratio for 60 g carbohydrate. Continuous glucose monitoring was used to monitor postprandial glucose over 180 min.

Results  The 40-g carbohydrate meal resulted in significantly more hypoglycaemia than the other meals (P = 0.003). There was a one in three chance of hypoglycaemia between 120 and 180 min if an insulin dose for 60 g carbohydrate was given for 40 g carbohydrate. The glucose levels of subjects on the 80-g meal were significantly higher than the 60- and 70-g carbohydrate meals at all time points between 150 and 180 min (P < 0.01). Subjects consuming the 80-g meal were more likely to have significant hyperglycaemia (blood glucose levels ≥ 12 mmol/l) compared with the other meals (P < 0.001).

Conclusions  In patients using intensive insulin therapy, an individually calculated insulin dose for 60 g carbohydrate results in postprandial hypoglycaemia or hyperglycaemia for meals containing 40 and 80 g carbohydrate. To calculate mealtime insulin in order to maintain postprandial control, carbohydrate estimations should be within 10 g of the actual meal carbohydrate.