Poor glycaemic control in type I diabetes is associated with elevated serum IGFBP-1 levels and reduced rather than elevated serum IGF-I levels. Increasing age is accompanied by a further decrease in serum IGF-I levels as well as an increase in IGFBP-I levels in adult diabetic type 1 and type 2 subjects. This is especially observed in diabetic type I subjects with manifest microvascular complications. IGFBP-I has been proposed as one of the IGF-I inhibitors in the serum of diabetics. Lowered IGF-I and increased IGFBP-1 levels in the blood may thus result in decreased IGF-I bioavailability at the tissue level. We hypothesize that the premature and progressive decline in serum IGF-I bioactivity during ageing in diabetics ultimately results in insufficient protective effects by IGF-I in the kidneys, eyes and neurones, and thus the progression of diabetic microvascular complications. If this hypothesis is proven to be right, treatment of diabetic patients with IGF-I (eventually complexed to IGFBPs) as an adjunct to insulin might prevent and not worsen the development of diabetic microvascular complications.