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New Target A1C Recommended for Youth with Type 1 Diabetes

Published: 1/19/21
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By Matthew Garza and Lydia Davis

The American Diabetes Association has lowered the A1C target for children to less than 7.0%, aiming to improve long-term health outcomes without increasing hypoglycemic events.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recently issued a new recommendation on A1C targets for children: youth with type 1 diabetes should aim for an A1C below 7.0%, rather than the previously recommended target of 7.5%. The ADA also emphasized that although this is a target for the general population of children with type 1 diabetes, it is important that each child’s A1C goal be personalized, taking into account hypoglycemia awareness, baseline A1C, and other health issues.

In 2018, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) reiterated its long-held recommendation that children with type 1 diabetes should aim to have an A1C of less than 7.5%. This target was designed to help prevent severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in children. The ADA has revised that position in light of a recent review paper, which showed that elevated blood glucose levels can lead to significant complications during child development, including abnormal brain development, an increase in heart problems, retinopathy, and neuropathy. The review also showed that newer diabetes therapies and technology have resulted in a lower risk for severe hypoglycemia.

However, for certain groups of at-risk children, this new recommendation may not apply, and it may be safer to target an A1C of 7.5% or higher. Children with low hypoglycemia awareness, those who cannot alert others to symptoms of hypoglycemia, those without access to helpful diabetes technology (such as continuous glucose monitoring), and those who cannot test their blood glucose levels regularly should continue to aim for an A1C of less than 7.5%. Children with a history of severe hypoglycemia should aim for an A1C of less than 8.0%.

In contrast, children who are not at risk for hypoglycemia (for example during the often-experienced “honeymoon” period) should aim for an A1C as low as 6.5%.

The lower A1C goal of 7.0% will hopefully lead to a reduction in diabetes complications during childhood and throughout the lives of people with type 1 diabetes, without increasing their risk of severe hypoglycemia while they are young.

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