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Health Team

New Test May Detect Diabetes Years Ahead of Time

Posted September 24, 2007 7:35 p.m. EDT
Updated September 24, 2007 11:13 p.m. EDT

— The rise in obesity has led to a rise in the incidence of Type 2 diabetes. Early diagnosis can mean more effective treatment, however, and a new experimental test may be able to spot indications years before a person even has the illness.

Twenty million Americans have Type 2 diabetes.

“It's a big health problem and it's getting worse,” diabetes patient Mannie Rezende said.

Rezende was diagnosed three years ago with Type 2 diabetes; he needs daily insulin.

Early treatment can only happen if the condition is diagnosed early on.

Dr. Simin Liu, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, believes he can detect the disease years before current tests. The key is a set of molecules called inflammatory markers.

“These inflammatory markers are directly and positively related to future development of Type 2 diabetes,” said Liu.

In a recent study, Liu and his colleagues analyzed the blood of 80,000 healthy women. They found women with high levels of the inflammatory markers were much more likely to go on to develop Type 2 diabetes. The higher the level, the greater the risk.

“Six years before they even have the disease, we identify this set of inflammatory markers,” said Liu.

If future studies confirm these results, doctors may one day have a routine test allowing patients to get a jump on the disease.

In many cases, lifestyle changes and weight loss are enough to avoid diabetes altogether.

“Diet and exercise and those kind of everyday precautions can help a great deal I've learned,” said Rezende.

It has helped Rezende keep his diabetes under control. If he had started years earlier, it may have done much more.