genetic testing

Knowing genetic risk of developing diabetes may not change behaviour, study finds

by Barbara Hewitt on December 29, 2016

There has been a lot of new work done on finding a genetic reasons for diabetes but new research suggests that giving people detailed information about their personal genetic risk of developing the condition may not help.

Researchers from the University of California in San Diego say that giving people the basic facts about diabetes is just as motivational in terms of getting them to change their behaviour as genetic risk information.

Woman eating breakfast‘Overall, genetic risk information is becoming more and more common, and it’s reasonable to assume that given the decreases in sequencing costs genetic risk information will proliferate,’ said lead study author Dr. Job Godino.

But he is not convinced that it would get people to take action to improve their risk or condition. ‘For common complex disorders like diabetes, it very well may not do so,’ Godino said.

To see if offering people more personalized information about their diabetes risk might help with prevention, researchers analysed data on 569 men and women born in England between 1950 and 1965 who didn’t have a diagnosis of diabetes or other chronic diseases.

Researchers looked at the participants’ individual risk of developing type 2 diabetes two ways. First, they collected blood samples to screen for gene variants. They also looked at what’s known as phenotypic risk based on things like age and weight.

All of the participants received standard lifestyle advice on preventing diabetes and in addition, researchers randomly assigned a third of the people in the study to get information on their genetic risk for diabetes and another third to get information on their phenotypic risk. Eight weeks later, participants were fitted with a device to monitor physical activity for six days.

Compared to the control group of people who didn’t receive detailed information about their personal diabetes risk, participants who did get their personal risk information didn’t end up getting significantly more exercise, the researchers found.

However, the patients who were given their personalised risk of developing diabetes did have a better understanding of risk at the conclusion of the study.

The researchers pointed out that there were limitations in the study, including a lack of diversity among participants, who were generally well educated and physically and psychologically healthy.

They said that this may make the results less relevant to a broader population of patients with diabetes or people at risk for developing the disease and the short follow-up period also limited their ability to know what the effect of having personal risk information might be over the longer term.

They added that more research is needed to shed light on whether these results hold true for personalised risk information as it relates to other diseases and whether someone’s perception of their risk before the study had any impact on the outcome.

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New test developed to diagnose diabetes

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