The number of people with type 2 diabetes is growing at an alarming rate. Poor eating habits, lack of exercise, and the aging population accounts for some of the increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Other than looking at risk factors such as family history and obesity, doctors don’t have a good way to determine who’s at greatest risk of developing type 2 diabetes – until now. A new study published in the journal Diabetes showed that a simple blood test could make predicting diabetes a little easier.
A Blood Test for Predicting Diabetes?
Researchers used a technique called Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) to look at the number and size of lipoprotein particles in the blood of healthy women. Lipoproteins are special particles that transport cholesterol and other fat-soluble particles throughout the body. HDL, LDL, and triglycerides are all carried on these particles. Researchers were interested in whether the size of these particles could be used to predict diabetes risk in healthy women without symptoms. Fortunately, NMR makes it easier to determine lipoprotein particle size – something conventional lipid testing can’t do.
Particle Size and the Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes
The researchers in this study followed over 26,000 healthy women for 13 years to see if they developed type 2 diabetes. What did they find? Lipoprotein particle size is useful for predicting diabetes. Women with the smallest LDL and HDL particles sizes, as measured by NMR, were at a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, while those with larger LDL and HDL particles were at a lower risk.
HDL and LDL particle size was important for predicting diabetes even in cases where women had normal lipid levels measured by routine lipid screens. Currently, standard lipid screening can’t determine particle size, NMR is needed for that.
Predicting Diabetes with NMR
Using NMR to measure HDL and LDL particle size, along with standard lipid testing, may help doctors predict who will get diabetes years before they get it. The change in particle size occurs years before other diabetes symptoms appear, which would provide people at high risk an opportunity to alter their lifestyle to reduce their risk of ever getting this chronic disease.
Other Benefits of NMR Particle Size Testing
People who have small HDL and LDL particle size are also at a three times greater risk of heart disease. This is because small particles are more easily oxidized, which causes them to readily form plaque in the walls of arteries. Knowing particle size is not only helpful for predicting diabetes, but heart disease as well.
Is NMR Testing Available for Predicting Diabetes and Heart Disease?
There are some labs currently offering NMR particle size testing. Ask your doctor if this kind of testing is appropriate for you.
Medical News Today. “Simple Blood Test May Predict Who Might Develop Type 2 Diabetes Among Healthy Women”
Johns Hopkins Health Alerts. “The New Blood Lipid Tests – Sizing Up LDL Cholesterol”