Type 2 diabetes
, which is linked to obesity and an unhealthy lifestyle. But scientists now think it may also be linked to a specific gene.
On The Web:
Type 2 Diabetes
from the American Diabetes Association
In a new study, researchers believe they have identified the gene and say it can increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes by about 40 percent. They say almost one-third of Americans have the gene.
"This is a very early stage of research," said Dr. Sethu Reddy, of the Cleveland Clinic. "We have the identity of this particular gene, but we still don't know all the details about what this gene does."
While more study is needed, Reddy said there's hope the new information could lead to a test -- identifying people at high risk years before the disease takes hold.
"The genetic test will, in essence, give us a forecast maybe 10 to 15 years ahead of time that they may be at risk," Reddy said.
Even if a person has the gene, it does not necessarily mean he or she will get Type 2 diabetes. It does mean, however, that he or she has a higher risk and that knowledge could help prevent the disease.
"The significance is if you know that you have the gene, you can then take some prophylactic measures, whether it be diet, exercise, lifestyle changes to hopefully prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes," said Dr. Paul Greenberg, of St. Luke Roosevelt Hospital.
Doctors can do blood tests to determine if patients are pre-diabetic, or at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. With improved diet and exercise habits, health officials say the disease can be prevented.