The results of the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT) have given rise to much encouragement in the battle to stave off the complications of type 1 diabetes, showing dramatic declines in the development of severe retinopathy, nephropathy, and neuropathy in those treated intensively compared with conventional therapy. Particularly encouraging has been the continuing difference between the two groups despite both having similar HbA1c (∼8%) since the end of DCCT, when 96% of participants entered the observational Epidemiology of Diabetes Interventions and Complications (EDIC) study. This continuing relative benefit has been termed “metabolic memory,” which implies altered metabolic regulation. Based on evidence from both the Epidemiology of Diabetes Complications (EDC) prospective cohort study of childhood-onset type 1 diabetes and DCCT/EDIC, we show that the metabolic memory effect can be largely explained by lower cumulative glycemic exposure in the intensive therapy group, and, on average, the development of complications increases with greater glycemic exposure, irrespective of whether this results from a high exposure for a short time or a lower exposure for a longer time. Thus, there is no need for a concept like “metabolic memory” to explain these observations. Potential mechanisms explaining the cumulative glycemic effect are also briefly discussed.
- Received May 28, 2019.
- Accepted December 5, 2019.
- © 2020 by the American Diabetes Association.