Labeling people as 'pre-diabetic' may be unhelpful and dangerous, study says


Using the term "pre-diabetic" to classify people with high blood sugar isn't only unhelpful, but it might also pose unnecessary financial and social costs, report researchers from University College London and the Mayo Clinic.

The new study aimed to determine whether or not a pre-diabetes diagnosis could offer any health benefits or better rates of prevention, yet results showed treating pre-diabetes only delayed the onset of Type 2 diabetes by a few years.

Furthermore, no long-term benefits of classifying people as pre-diabetic were seen.

"Pre-diabetes is an artificial category with virtually zero clinical relevance," said lead author John S Yudkin, Emeritus Professor of Medicine at UCL. "There is no proven benefit of giving diabetes treatment drugs to people in this category before they develop diabetes, particularly since many of them would not go on to develop diabetes anyway."

ADA guidelines may need to be revised

According to the American Diabetes Association's guidelines, anyone with A1c levels between 5.7 and 6.4 percent has pre-diabetes.

But if these guidelines were adopted on a global scale, researchers said, about half of adults in China would be considered pre-diabetic, as would one-third of adults in the UK.

"The latest study questions the logic of putting a label on such huge sections of the population, as it could create significant burdens on healthcare systems without conferring any health benefits," a press release on the study stated.

The authors further explained that ethnic differences that contribute to fluctuations in A1c levels might invalidate the pre-diabetes term even more.

Diet and exercise are more effective than drugs

Yudkin explained that pharmaceutical solutions aren't always the answer and the focus should be put more on public health.

"The whole population would benefit from a more healthy diet and more physical activity, so it makes no sense to single out so many people and tell them that they have a disease," he said.

Co-author Victor Montori concluded that healthy diet and exercise are still the best ways to prevent and treat Type 2 diabetes.

"Unlike drugs, they are associated with incredibly positive effects in other aspects of life," he said.

The study is published in the journal BMJ.

Source: University College London

Image credit: winnond/


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