If you're thin, you may think you'll never have to worry about getting Type 2 diabetes. But that's not the case. Lean people get the disease as well, and new research suggests that when they do, they tend to have a greater genetic disposition to the disorder than obese Type 2 diabetes patients.

It's long been thought that thin people with Type 2 have a more "genetically driven" form of the disease. The new study, reported in Science Daily and published in PLoS Genetics, bears this out. A team including researchers from a variety of institutions such as the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, and the University of Edinburgh collaborated on the study. The Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Exeter led the research.

In addition to suggesting that thin Type 2 diabetes patients are more genetically prone to get the disease than obese individuals, the research also discovered a new genetic factor that appears only in thin individuals who have Type 2, Science Daily reported.

"This is the first time that a Type 2 diabetes gene has been found to act this way," said John Perry, one of the lead study authors, according to Science Daily. "We do not know why it should be associated in one sub-group of patients and not another. It could point to the fact that Type 2 diabetes may not be one disease, but may represent a number of subgroups."

MaryAnn Banerji, MD, director of the Diabetes Treatment Center at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York City, called the research "exciting." "This is an important piece of information," she says. "Little by little, we are going to get the answers, and there will be a cure."

So if you're thin, should you worry that you will develop diabetes?  "We do have patients who are at an appropriate weight for their height who develop Type 2 diabetes," says Alison Massey, MS, RD, LDN, CDE of the Center for Endocrinology at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. "Typically, they have a strong family history of the disease."

If diabetes runs in your family, visit your primary care physician annually and have lab testing to keep track of your blood glucose and perhaps your hemoglobin A1C levels, Massey recommends. As far as other measures, "We recommend the same strategies that we would tell someone with Type 2, except losing weight because no weight loss is required," Massey says. "Get regular physical activity (150 minutes per week, minimum), follow a healthy diet, and don't smoke."

Marwan Hamaty, MD, an endocrinologist at the Cleveland Clinic, agrees. "Diet and exercise work very well for diabetes prevention for both the slim and the obese," he says. And, he says, "This research is a very nice complement to the clinical information that we already have."



"Jack Spratt" diabetes gene identified. 1 June 2012. Science Daily. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120601103808.htm