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Researchers Find 3 Subgroups of Type 2 Diabetes

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Researchers believe they have identified three subgroups of type 2 diabetes that may help doctors treat patients more effectively.

Type 2 diabetes, which has also been called adult-onset or non-insulin dependent diabetes, is a condition that causes blood sugar to rise to unhealthy levels. Insulin is a hormone that acts like a key to open cells so they can accept sugar from the bloodstream. All cells in the body use sugar as a source of energy.

In type 2 diabetes, either the cells become resistant to the work of insulin, or the body is not able to make enough insulin. When insulin doesn’t work effectively, excess sugar accumulates in the bloodstream where it can damage blood vessels, organs and nerves in the body.

Researchers from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City studied health records from over 11,200 patients looking for patterns that could help them better understand and treat type 2 diabetes. Of those patients 2,551 had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The research study authors acknowledge that this patient sample was relatively small.

The data used in the study included full blood panels and a genetic analysis for each patient. The research team identified what they called three distinct subgroups found in the patients with type 2 diabetes.

According to an article summary found on WebMD, the first group included the youngest and most obese patients. Although type 2 diabetes has traditionally developed in adults, the increase in childhood obesity has led to an increase in type 2 diabetes in younger patients. These people are at higher risk for kidney disease and blindness caused by their diabetes.

The second group included patients believed to be at higher risk for cancer and heart disease.

The third group consisted of patients suffering from a variety of different health problems including heart disease, mental illness, allergies and HIV.

"Not only did the clinical data tell us those were meaningful groups, but the genetics pointed toward potential biological factors that explain these differences in clinical characteristics," said senior study author Joel Dudley, director of biomedical informatics and an assistant professor of genetics and genomic sciences at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

The research team believes that their findings could help doctors choose the most effective treatment plan for individual patients by more fully understanding other risk factors, in addition to their need for diabetes treatment.

Dudley said, “Based on these groupings, a doctor could recommend more aggressive cancer monitoring in some patients, while prescribing heart-healthy medications and lifestyle changes for others.”

Not all experts agree with the researchers' methods. Dr. Robert Ratner, chief scientific and medical officer for the American Diabetes Association, called it a “major leap of faith from their study” to assume that mining large amounts of data will bring the clear results they claim.

Ratner said, “To be blunt, I’m not sure this analysis contributes very much.”

The results of the study were published in the October 28 issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine.

If you have questions about diabetes or about your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, talk to your health care provider.


WebMD. Researchers Identify 3 Type 2 Diabetes Subtypes. Dennis Thompson. Web. November 4, 2015.

American Diabetes Association. Diabetes: Type 2. Web. November 4, 2015.

Mayo Clinic. Type 2 Diabetes. Web. November 4, 2015.

Reviewed November 5, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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