Weight, blood pressure and blood fat elevations are greater in young people who develop type 2 diabetes.
The study, led by the Universities of Glasgow and Manchester and published today in Diabetologia, examined known risk factors for heart disease between people with and without type 2 diabetes at similar ages. The findings confirm that younger people diagnosed with diabetes have a greater difference in weight relative to people without the condition.
The difference in weight between those with and without type 2 diabetes was most marked for White people, especially women. The same was also true for blood pressure: young, White people had a higher difference in blood pressure when diagnosed with type 2 diabetes when measured against those without the condition. Whilst the work confirmed the same patterns were seen in people of South Asian background and African-Caribbean or Black African background, these groups tended to develop type 2 diabetes at much lower BMIs, with less difference in weight between those who did and didn’t. Similar, though less marked patterns by age, were seen for blood fat levels.
Previous studies have shown that there is a greater loss of life from type 2 diabetes in White people, and the researchers believe these findings may help to explain why.
Overall the researchers found that the difference in weight for individuals with and without type 2 diabetes was 20kg, between the ages of 20 and 39 years old. While for those diagnosed over 80 years old, the weight difference was only 5kg. Similarly, the difference in blood pressure was highest in the younger age bracket for those who were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. There was no difference in blood pressure for those with or without type 2 diabetes at over 80 years old.
People who develop diabetes at a younger age develop more complications over their lifetime, and die younger than people who develop diabetes much later in life. However scientists still do not fully understand why this is case.
Researchers say these findings may explain why younger onset of type 2 diabetes could be more damaging to some individuals, as they develop it on top of other health risk factors.
Professor Naveed Sattar of the University of Glasgow, who led the study, said: "Our findings could help explain why younger diabetes onset is more damaging, and offer important insights into different groups for the development of type 2 diabetes.
"They also suggest a need for greater healthcare emphasis on diabetes and heart disease management in young people developing diabetes, regardless of their sex or ethnicity."
Prof Martin K Rutter of the University of Manchester, and Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, who co-led this study, said, "Our work also helps to understand why there may be a greater loss of life from type 2 diabetes in White people as we noted that risk factors differences between those with and without diabetes, across nearly all ages, were less in people of South Asian background and African-Caribbean or Black African background compared to Whites."
"Our study also further illustrates how in people of South Asian background and African-Caribbean or Black African background are more sensitive to the adverse metabolic effects of weight gain than White people. These findings may hold some relevance to the current COVID-19 findings where people with diabetes, and of specific ethnicities, are at greater risk for severe outcomes."
The researchers used the UK Clinical Practice Research Datalink to identify 187,601 people with type 2 diabetes diagnosed between 1998-2015 in England. The study compared their weight and blood pressure at diagnosis with age-matched people without diabetes, by sex and ethnic group.
The study, ’Age-, sexand ethnicity-related differences in body weight, blood pressure, HbA1c and lipid levels at the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes relative to people without diabetes’ is published in Diabetologia, a journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.