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Study Links a Protein With Diabetes Risk

Connection Seen Between Adiponectin and Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes

By Jennifer Warner
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

July 7, 2009 -- Higher levels of a protein made by fat cells is linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

A new review of research shows people with higher levels of the protein adiponectin consistently have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Adiponectin is a protein produced by fat cells that has anti-inflammatory properties. It also makes the body more sensitive to insulin. Reduced insulin sensitivity is a key factor in the development of type 2 diabetes.

Researchers say the finding may help explain why obesity alone does not completely explain diabetes risk. The results are also in line with previous research that showed obese mice with high adiponectin levels were more sensitive to insulin than other obese mice and had lower odds of developing type 2 diabetes.

Adiponectin levels can be increased through medication and lifestyle interventions. Researchers say targeting people with low adiponectin levels may help stem the current epidemic of type 2 diabetes in the U.S. and other countries.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from 13 international studies containing information on diabetes status and adiponectin levels of nearly 15,000 people.

They found higher adiponectin levels were consistently associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. The higher the level of adiponectin in the blood, the lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, regardless of body mass index (BMI), race, or sex.

"Currently adiponectin is among the strongest and most consistent biochemical predictors of type 2 diabetes," write researcher Shanshan Li, MD, of the Harvard School of Public Health, and colleagues in the Journal of the American Medical Association. "Adiponectin is a promising target for the reduction of risk of type 2 diabetes."

SOURCES: Li, S. Journal of the American Medical Association, July 8, 2009; vol 302: pp 179-188. News release, American Medical Association. WebMD Health News: "Obesity Doesn't Always Spur Diabetes."

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