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Blood Vessel Damage May Occur Even Before Prediabetes Stage

A long-term British research study shows that even before people reach a prediabetes stage of elevated blood sugar levels, damage to their blood vessels may have already occurred.

The study found the existence of certain biochemical markers in the blood that can signal the eventual onset of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Although their presence occurs before the onset of elevated blood sugars—the traditional benchmark for determining diabetic conditions—researchers found that they can cause blood vessel damage well before a diagnosis.

The scientists at The University of Manchester and King’s College in London tracked changes in blood fat metabolites among young women who were determined to have varying risks of developing type 2. (Metabolites are substances necessary to or a product of metabolic functioning.) They found that changes in blood metabolites took place and could be detected long before changes in blood glucose levels.

They also found that some amino acids and vitamin D levels changed before blood glucose increases could be detected.

One distressing finding is that changed blood fat metabolites led to damaged blood vessels, meaning that even before some study subjects had reached prediabetes or type 2 stages, they already had experienced some of the complications of the disease.The study’s lead author, Prof. Kennedy Cruickshank, said the study may lead to a new definition of type 2 diabetes—one that leads back to blood fat metabolites in the prediabetes stage as an indicator of the disease rather than just a reliance on blood glucose measurements.

However, there’s still work to be done before the UK research leads to a new or more comprehensive test for incipient type 2. The researchers say a look at all of the chemicals in the blood will be necessary before scientists can definitively say they have a marker that can clearly identify people predisposed to type 2. Once in place, a test based on such a marker would allow healthcare professionals to begin early treatment that could forestall both the disease and early blood vessel damage.

Study results were published in the journal PLOS ONE:

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