First of its kind study finds new risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes

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Prior research revealed type 2 diabetics are twice as likely to experience depression compared to non-diabetics.

However, it wasn’t clear if depression caused type 2 diabetes, or vice versa.

Or whether other factors were responsible for the link between the two health conditions.

Now, for the first time ever, research has shown that depression directly causes an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Led by Professor Inga Prokopenko, from the University of Surrey, the team found that a higher body weight partly, but not wholly, explained the effects of depression on type 2 diabetes.

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There were also seven genetic variants that contributed to both type 2 diabetes and depression.

The shared genes played a role in insulin production, levels of inflammation in the brain, pancreas, and fat tissue.

To gather such data, the team analysed genetic and health information on hundreds and thousands of British and Finnish participants.

Dr Elizabeth Robertson, Director of Research at Diabetes UK – the charity that funded the research – commented on the findings.

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“This hugely important study gives us new insights into the links between genetics, type 2 diabetes and depression, indicating that depression can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes,” said Dr Robertson.

“Type 2 diabetes is complex, with multiple risk factors – and previous research has shown that the condition is more common in people with depression.”

Dr Robertson added: “This study gives us greater insight into why and indicates that depression should now be considered a risk factor for type 2.   

“This knowledge could help healthcare professionals to improve care and support for people with a history of depression and prevent more cases of type 2 diabetes.”

Anybody who has depression is urged to find out their risk of diabetes by using the charity’s Know Your Risk tool.

Professor Prokopenko said: “Our discovery illuminates depression as a contributing cause of type 2 diabetes and could help to improve prevention efforts.”

Type 2 diabetes risk factors include:

  • White and over 40
  • Over 25 if you’re African-Caribbean, Black African, Chinese or South Asian.
  • Having a close relative who has the condition
  • High blood pressure
  • High waist measurement
  • Obesity.

For access to the full research paper, click here.

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