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Most type 2 diabetes cases could be reversed, new study suggests

Professor Brian Ference said the findings could have significant implications for the approach to screening for, preventing, treating and even reversing Type 2 diabetes
Aine Fox (PA)

BODY mass index is a much more powerful risk factor for type 2 diabetes than genetics, a new study of almost half a million people has suggested.

Most cases of the disease could either be prevented or reversed if someone's BMI was kept below their personal cut-off point at which abnormal blood sugar levels are triggered, an expert behind the study said.

Everyone will have a different threshold which sees them at risk of becoming diabetic, explaining why some people with a healthy weight develop the condition and some who are overweight do not, the Cambridge University professor said.

Professor Brian Ference said the findings of the study could have “significant implications” for medics' approach to the condition.

The study of 445,765 people saw participants divided into five groups according to genetic risk of diabetes and five groups according to BMI. Participants were followed until an average age of 65; during that period 31,298 developed type 2 diabetes.

Those in the highest BMI group had an 11-fold increased risk of diabetes compared to the lowest BMI group, and a greater likelihood of developing diabetes than all other BMI groups, regardless of genetic risk.

Investigators also discovered that the length of time a person had a higher BMI did not have an impact on the risk of diabetes.

“This suggests that when people cross a certain BMI threshold, their chances of diabetes go up and stay at that same high-risk level regardless of how long they are overweight,” Prof Ference said.

He said the study suggested medics could "probably reverse most cases of diabetes if we lower somebody's BMI aggressively below their BMI threshold relatively soon after they develop diabetes".

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