Protecting the most at-risk from diabetes

Research Updates
Diabetes is one of the major risk factors for heart disease – in fact, people living with diabetes are twice as likely to develop heart disease as those without. In Australia, one person develops diabetes every five minutes.

Aboriginal Australians suffer disproportionately from diabetes. The lifetime risk of developing diabetes for Aboriginal women is 66%, and for men it is 50%. Importantly, Aboriginal Australians develop type 2 diabetes at lower body mass indices than people of European origin.

Evidence shows that type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed in up to 58 per cent of cases through early implementation of lifestyle changes such as being physically active, following a healthy eating plan and maintaining a healthy weight. But despite the clear need, little has been done to implement early intervention for Aboriginal Australians.

The Cardiometabolic Disease Group is changing that. The Group has made a groundbreaking discovery: new blood biomarkers that can predict the onset of diabetes 12 years in advance. The preventative potential of this is enormous – with 12 years’ notice, people known to be at risk could be supported in making the lifestyle changes that could help prevent the disease from ever developing.

“Studies have shown repeatedly that the best intervention for diabetic consequences is early intervention, so getting in early like this will change the course of someone’s life,” says Dr John O’Sullivan, Cardiometabolic Disease Group Leader.

The second blood biomarker discovered by the Group distinguishes between the two main organs that drive insulin resistance (liver and muscle), pointing the way to better targeted treatments.

In a new collaboration with Professor Alex Brown, a leading Aboriginal doctor and researcher, the Group will focus on adapting their biomarker approach to benefit Aboriginal Australians.

“With this exciting work, we hope to advance the potential for personalised prevention and treatment of diabetes amongst Aboriginal Australians – the most at-risk group in Australia,” says Dr O’Sullivan.

Image header copyright: andreypopov / 123RF Stock Photo

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