An Early Warning for Type 2? It’s Possible


By: Clay Wirestone

Imagine knowing that you’re likely to develop type 2 diabetes a decade from now. What would you do?

You’d probably change your lifestyle, seek advice from your doctor, and possibly even start some medications. If you had that knowledge, you’d surely act differently. And acting differently could delay or even prevent that diabetes diagnosis.

But that’s impossible, right? How could you hope to know something so important so early? Doctors think that they have an answer.

Massachusetts General Hospital researchers looked at nearly 200 people with type 2 diabetes. The subjects had been tracked for years as part of a broader health study, so the doctors were able to compare current blood samples with samples taken years ago. They then compared this information with blood samples from people without diabetes.

The bottom line: Years before they developed the disease, the people with type 2 diabetes had higher levels of five amino acids connected to metabolism. What’s more, the people with extra-high levels of three of these acids were at four to five times greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

“These findings could provide insight into metabolic pathways that are altered very early in the process leading to diabetes,” said Thomas Wang, a Massachusetts General researcher. “They also raise the possibility that, in selected individuals, these measurements could identify those at highest risk of developing diabetes so that early preventive measures could be instituted.”

In other words, studying levels of these amino acids could predict some people’s risk for the disease. And early detection of type 2 diabetes—a rapidly spreading disease with complications that require expensive treatment—could save lives and resources aplenty.

If scientists managed to develop such a test, would you take it? If not, why not? And if you did take it, what would you do with the results? Would you change your life? Write in the comments section of this article and let us know.

The study in question was published online this month in the journal Nature Medicine.




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