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Understanding of type 2 diabetes diagnosis in black people reversed

By Editor
26th June 2019
Type 2 diabetes

Insulin resistance is not the main cause of type 2 diabetes in black African people, according to new research.

Black African people are up to three times more likely to develop the condition than white European people and previous studies had suggested the increased risk was because different ethnicities had greater insulin resistance than other groups.

This greater insulin resistance was thought to result in even higher levels of insulin circulating in the body, and ultimately led to the development of type 2 diabetes.

Dr Louise Goff, lead researcher of the study at King’s College London, said: “People of black African origin might be getting poorer care because we’re applying what we’ve learnt from white populations to everyone. Many approaches to treating or preventing type 2 diabetes focus on tackling insulin resistance, but if this isn’t a driving factor for black African people, then targeting this isn’t going to be as effective.

“As a next step, we’re investigating insulin sensitivity at different stages, in black African and white European men without type 2 diabetes and with pre-diabetes. This will help us to map how type 2 diabetes progresses in black Africans, and further unpick how and why this differs from white populations.”

Glucose doses

The researchers compared insulin resistance in men with type 2 diabetes, 18 who were black African and 15 who were white European.

They gave the men fixed doses of glucose over a four hour period and then looked at how much insulin the men produced in response to the glucose. They also looked at how their bodies processed glucose and fat, as well as within their liver, muscle and fatty tissue specifically.

Finally, participants had MRI scans to assess their internal fat levels. The methods used allowed the researchers to directly measure insulin resistance, whereas the majority of studies to date were only able to estimate.

The research team now plans to carry out further work to confirm whether their theory is correct and establish the potential reasons behind the high insulin levels. If successful, this work highlights an urgent need for more research into how Type 2 diabetes develops in people of different ethnicities.

With this knowledge, scientists and healthcare professionals could move towards more tailored treatment strategies, leading to better care for people with or at risk of type 2 diabetes from BAME communities.

Dr Elizabeth Robertson, Director of Research at Diabetes UK, said: “We always need to strive for the best possible care for everyone with, or at risk of, type 2 diabetes, and finding out more about what causes the condition in people of different ethnicities is an essential part of that process.

“There is still more to be done in terms of understanding how and why type 2 diabetes develops differently in black African people, and why this puts them at increased risk. But this research helps us to build on our current knowledge, so we can improve care even further and move towards more personalised type 2 diabetes treatment and prevention strategies for people of BAME backgrounds in the future.”

The research was funded by Diabetes UK and the findings have been published in the Diabetologia journal.

Picture credit:unsplash-logoMatheus Ferrero

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