We've Been Thinking About Diabetes All Wrong: Study

Researchers say there are 5 clusters, not 2 types, of diabetes
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 2, 2018 2:04 PM CST
In this April 18, 2017 file photo, a woman prepares to inject herself with insulin at her home in Las Vegas.   (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

(Newser) – More than 30 million Americans have diabetes, but a study published Thursday in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology concludes we've been thinking about the disease all wrong. The BBC reports diabetes is typically separated into type 1—an immune system disease—and type 2—mostly seen as the result of an unhealthy lifestyle. About 90% to 95% of diabetics are classified as type 2, according to Medical News Today. But: “Diabetes is not the grey mass we have been calling type 2," researcher Leif Groop tells the Guardian. "There are really subsets of the disease that require different treatment." Groop's team studied 14,775 diabetics and determined diabetes should actually be broken into five "genetically distinct" clusters. They are:

  • Cluster 1: Severe autoimmune diabetes. Essentially the same as type 1.
  • Cluster 2: Severe insulin-deficient diabetes. As in cluster 1, strikes young and healthy people, but the immune system isn't at fault.
  • Cluster 3: Severe insulin-resistant diabetes. Bodies of largely overweight people no longer respond to insulin being produced.
  • Cluster 4: Mild obesity-related diabetes. Patients are very overweight but have metabolisms closer to normal than patients in cluster 3.
  • Cluster 5: Mild age-related diabetes. Mild form of diabetes developed by older people. The most common cluster.
Each cluster has different risks associated with it, and patients could respond better to different treatments, researchers say. "I think it will mean a more individualized therapy [and] a better quality of life,” Groop says. (A study found moderate drinking may lower the risk of diabetes.)

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