CHAPEL HILL - For the first time, researchers working at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have uncovered major evidence that inflammation plays an undefined but central role in development of Type 2 diabetes.
Eventually, doctors might be able to use various laboratory test results -- or markers -- for inflammation to predict who is at a higher risk of developing what's also called diabetes mellitus in mid- or later life, the scientists say.
Their study, conducted on 12,330 men and women, ages 45 to 64, in Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi and North Carolina, also suggests physicians could delay or prevent some people getting diabetes through strict weight control since fat cells produce inflammatory mediators.
A report on the research appears in the current (May 15) issue of the Lancet, a British medical journal. Authors include Drs. Maria Ines Schmidt and Bruce B. Duncan of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, who participated in the study while visiting professors at UNC-CH, Dr. Steven Offenbacher of the UNC-CH School of Dentistry and Dr. Gerardo Heiss of the UNC-CH School of Public Health.
"Inflammation's role in the development of heart disease has been investigated extensively," Schmidt said. "Some basic science studies have suggested a possible causal connection between inflammation and diabetes, but as far as we know, this is the first evidence that these basic science findings may indeed have major implications for populations."
"We think the vast majority of scientists and physicians working with diabetes will be surprised by these findings because inflammation has not been recognized as being important to development of this illness," Duncan said. "Although the findings have no immediate clinical application, they point the way to an exciting new area of research in the causation of one of the world's major health problems."