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Type 2 Diabetes Gene Ups Risk by 80%

Good News: Lifestyle Changes Slash Risk Related to Gene
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 19, 2006 -- A gene linked to type 2 diabetesdiabetes ups the risk of developing the disease by 80% -- but a person can greatly reduce that risk through diet and lifestyle change.

The diabetes drug Glucophage also reduces the genetic risk of type 2 diabetes, but to a lesser extent.

Those findings come from a study looking at ways to prevent diabetes in people whose high blood sugar levels put them at risk of the disease.

Massachusetts General Hospital researcher Jose C. Florez, MD, PhD, and colleagues did genetic tests on 3,548 study participants. They looked for TCF7L2 gene variants recently linked to type 2 diabetes.

Their findings:

  • One in 10 of those with high blood sugar had two copies of the diabetes genes. Four in 10 had one copy.
  • Study participants with two copies of the diabetes gene had an 81% increased risk of type 2 diabetes over three years.
  • Increased risk of diabetes was only 15% if those with two copies of the diabetes genes lost 5% to 7% of their body weight and exercised 30 minutes, five days a week.
  • Taking Glucophage reduced the risk in those with two copies of the diabetes genes to 62%.

"Even the participants at highest genetic risk benefited from healthy lifestyle changes as much as, or perhaps more than, those who did not inherit the variant," Florez said in a news release. "People at risk of diabetes, whether they're overweight, have elevated blood glucose levels, or have this particular gene variant, can benefit greatly by implementing a healthy lifestyle."

One reason people in this study had such success with lifestyle change is that they got help from a dietitian and a lifestyle coach.

The findings appear in the July 20 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

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