Is hyperglycemia risky enough to justify the increased risk of hypoglycemia linked with tight diabetes control?

Biochem Med Metab Biol. 1991 Oct;46(2):129-39. doi: 10.1016/0885-4505(91)90060-x.


There is an ongoing debate about the possible disadvantages of human insulin use with respect to a possibly lower awareness of hypoglycemia than is associated with animal insulin usage. Participants in this debate have not, however, discussed a major contributory factor to this life-threatening acute complication of diabetes, the pressure on patients to achieve normal levels of blood glucose. This pressure stems from the view that hyperglycemia is the major causative factor in the long-term diabetic complications. However, the evidence that supranormal levels of tissue and plasma glucose contribute to the diabetic tissue damage is not as strong as the arguments on behalf of this position. Indeed, elevated glycemia may be no more than a crude index of other, unknown metabolic derangements which may be causative agents in diabetes-associated tissue damage. Intensive efforts to "normalize" glycemia lack experimental and clinical justification, distract attention from other possible mechanisms, and may impose an unnecessary risk on the insulin-dependent diabetic population since intensive "normalization" of glycemia lowers hypoglycemia awareness, and thus increases risk of hypoglycemia, irrespective of the type of insulin used.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohols / metabolism
  • Collagen / chemistry
  • Diabetes Complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus / drug therapy*
  • Glycosylation
  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemia / drug therapy*
  • Hyperglycemia / metabolism
  • Hypoglycemia / chemically induced*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Risk Factors


  • Alcohols
  • Collagen