Three risk factors-insulin resistance, fatty liver, and overweight/obesity-that are commonly associated with the onset of type 2 diabetes can each, by itself, substantially increase the risk of developing the disease. But in individuals that have all three factors working in combination, the risk of developing type 2 in a five-year period increases 14-fold.
Korean researchers, publishing their findings in Diabetes Care, reported that they recruited 12,853 non-diabetic South Koreans in 2003 for the study. Five years later, in 2008, 223 members of the patient study group had developed type 2 diabetes. Among them, the three risk factors had occurred in the following percentages:
- 26 (12 percent) of the persons who had acquired diabetes had none of the risk factors
- 37 (17 percent) had one risk factor
- 56 (25 percent) had two risk factors
- 104 (47 percent) had all three risk factors
Researchers say their study took into account other factors that could affect the acquisition of type 2, including age, sex, education, smoking, alcohol consumption, exercise habits, and triglyceride levels.
By itself, insulin resistance increases the risk of type 2 by a factor of 3.92, while fatty liver and overweight/obesity each increase the risk by a factor of 2.42. The risk from two factors in combination depended on the factors: Fatty liver and overweight/obesity together increase the risk of diabetes by a factor of 3.92, while insulin resistance combined with fatty liver produced a risk factor of 6.73.
The Korean researchers noted that fatty liver, though not as significant a factor as insulin resistance, is increasingly being seen as an independent risk factor for diabetes. While calling for more research into the three factors, they suggested that treatments specifically targeted at each factor might be the best approach to treating patients that have two or more of the factors present.