Five categories for adult diabetes, not just type 1 and type 2, study shows

Five categories for adult diabetes, not just type 1 and type 2, study shows

Findings shed light on variations in response to treatment between diabetics –and could help identify those at high risk of complications

Tailored treatment of the disease could be possible in the future, say scientists.
Tailored treatment of the disease could be possible in the future, say scientists. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA

Diabetes that begins in adulthood falls into five distinct categories, new research has revealed, with scientists suggesting it is time to ditch the idea that diabetes is largely split into two types.

Researchers say all of the newly classified subgroups are genetically distinct and have numerous differences, including the age at which they tend to occur and different levels of risk for complications such as kidney disease.

The team say the findings shed light on why some diabetics respond very differently to treatment than others, adding that it could help identify those who might be at high risk of complications, and lead to tailored treatment of the disease.

“For the patient, I think it will mean a more individualised therapy [and] a better quality of life,” said Leif Groop, professor of diabetes and endocrinology at Lund University, who led the study.

At present, diabetes is classified into two main forms, both of which have links to genetics. Type 1 is an autoimmune condition where the hormone insulin is not produced, and which generally develops in childhood. The more common form, type 2, in which little insulin is produced or does not trigger glucose uptake by the body’s cells, generally develops later in life and is linked to obesity.

However, the latest study suggests this classification is too simplistic.

Writing in the journal The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, researchers describe how they discovered the five sub-groups by analysing information from 8,980 diabetics diagnosed as adults in a Swedish registry. The results were confirmed using data from 5,795 other adult patients across another three further databases from Sweden and Finland.

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