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Diabetes. 2004 Jan;53(1):160-5.

Mode of onset of type 2 diabetes from normal or impaired glucose tolerance.

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  • 1Metabolism Unit, Department of Internal Medicine and C.N.R. Institute of Clinical Physiology, University of Pisa School of Medicine, Pisa, Italy.


Fasting plasma glucose concentrations (FPG) predict development of type 2 diabetes. Whether hyperglycemia evolves from normoglycemia gradually over time or as a step increase is not known. We measured plasma glucose and insulin levels during oral glucose testing in 35- to 64-year-old men and nonpregnant women from a population-based survey (Mexico City Diabetes Study) at baseline (n = 2,279) and after 3.25 (n = 1,740) and 7 years (n = 1,711) of follow-up. In subjects with normal glucose tolerance (NGT) on all three occasions (nonconverters; n = 911), FPG increased only slightly (0.23 +/- 0.79 mmol/l, mean +/- SD; P < 0.0001) over 7 years. In contrast, conversion to diabetes among NGT subjects (n = 98) was marked by a large step-up in FPG regardless of time of conversion (3.06 +/- 2.57 and 2.94 +/- 3.11 mmol/l, respectively, at 3.25 and 7 years; P < 0.0001 vs. nonconverters). Likewise, in subjects who converted to diabetes from impaired glucose tolerance (n = 75), FPG rose by 3.14 +/- 3.83 and 3.12 +/- 3.61 mmol/l (P < 0.0001 vs. nonconverters). Three-quarters of converters had increments in FPG above the 90th percentile of the corresponding increments in nonconverters. Converters had higher baseline BMI (30.4 +/- 4.9 vs. 27.3 +/- 4.0 kg/m(2); P < 0.001) and fasting plasma insulin values (120 +/- 78 vs. 84 +/- 84 pmol/l; P < 0.02) than nonconverters; however, no consistent change in either parameter had occurred before conversion. In contrast, changes in 2-h postglucose insulin levels between time of conversion and preceding measurement were significantly (P < 0.0001) related to the corresponding changes in FPG in an inverse manner. We conclude that, within a 3-year time frame, the onset of diabetes is very often rapid rather than gradual and is in part explained by a fall in glucose-stimulated insulin response.

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