London: A new blood test can save millions of people from diabetes, by detecting the risk of the disease before it actually develops.
Researchers have discovered that a simple blood test reveals an individual's risk of developing type-2 diabetes before they develop either condition - far earlier than previously believed.
The findings could help doctors provide earlier diagnosis and treatment. Dr. Michal Shani and Prof. Shlomo Vinker of the Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Clalit Health Services collaborated on the study.
To get a picture of blood glucose levels over time, doctors test for levels of glycated hemoglobin, or A1c, in the blood. When blood glucose levels are high, more A1c is formed. So A1c serves as a biomarker, indicating average blood glucose levels over a two- to three-month period.
According to the ADA, having an A1c level of 6.5 percent or more is an indicator of the disease and an A1c level of between 5.7 and 6.4 percent is an indicator of prediabetes.
To evaluate the A1c test's ability to screen for diabetes in high-risk patients, the researchers analyzed the medical history of 10,201 patients who were given the test in central Israel between 2002 and 2005.
They found that overall, 22.5 percent of the patients developed diabetes within five to eight years. Patients with A1c levels as low as 5.5 percent - below the official threshold for diagnosing diabetes were significantly more likely to develop diabetes than patients with A1c levels below 5.5 percent.
Every 0.5 percent increase in A1c levels up to 7 percent doubled the patients' risk of developing diabetes. Obesity also doubled patients' risk of developing diabetes, the researchers found.
The findings have been published in the European Journal of General Practice.