Boston researchers said a simple blood test may be able to predict the onset of type II diabetes up to 10 years ahead of symptoms. In a study which followed more than 2,400 patients for 12 years, the research team found five amino acids had “highly significant associations with future diabetes.”
"These findings could provide insight into metabolic pathways that are altered very early in the process leading to diabetes," said researcher Thomas Wang, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital's Cardiovascular Research Center, in a news release. "They also raise the possibility that, in selected individuals, these measurements could identify those at highest risk of developing diabetes so that early preventive measures could be instituted."
A lack of insulin or a resistance to insulin causes diabetes. In type II diabetes the body is resistant to high levels of insulin. There is plenty of insulin in the body but the cells are unable to use it. High blood sugar levels over a long period of time can damage vital organs, including the kidneys, eyes, and nerves.
Published in Nature Medicine magazine, the study followed 2,422 healthy adults, who had normal blood sugars at the start of the study, for 12 years. During this period, 201 developed type II diabetes. Patients with the highest levels of amino acids were five times as likely to develop diabetes, they reported.
The analysis showed that elevated levels of five amino acids — isoleucine, leucine, valine, tyrosine and phenylalanine — were significantly associated with the later development of type II diabetes. Researchers also found that measuring combinations of these five amino acids rather than a single amino acid was a more accurate predictor of an individual’s future risk for diabetes.
In addition, the study participants who were closely matched for the traditional risk factors for type II diabetes, such as obesity or insulin resistance, who therefore had the highest levels of the three most predictive amino acids -- isoleucine, phenylalanine and tyrosine -- had a five to seven times higher risk of developing type II diabetes than those with the lowest levels.