Challenges of the Diabetes Epidemic – Expertise of the DZD is in Demand

Diabetes is on the rise. On November 25, 2015 high-ranking representatives from the political arena, science and the economy discussed in the German Bundestag how to stop this development. Hermann Gröhe, Federal Minister of Health, Christian Schmidt, Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture, and scientists of the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD) took part in the discussion of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group. The experts agreed that prevention and research play a key role in achieving this goal.

“We need more and clearer indications about what is effective and better understanding about what is causing the rise in diabetes incidence. Then we can initiate preventive measures, diagnostics and treatment accordingly,” Gröhe said in his keynote speech. He pointed out that the pooling of the best diabetes researchers from basic research, epidemiology and clinical research in the German Center for Diabetes Research constitutes an important step to achieve these goals.

Significant interaction of lifestyle and genes
Prof. Martin Hrabě de Angelis, speaker and member of the DZD Executive Board and director of the Institute of Experimental Genetics at Helmholtz Zentrum München, illuminated the role personalized medicine plays in diabetes prevention. “The DZD has shown that there are non-responders and responders to lifestyle interventions. Approximately 25 % of people with diabetes do not react to lifestyle interventions,” said Hrabě de Angelis. The DZD is seeking new research approaches precisely for these individuals. Studies have therefore been initiated to further investigate these subgroups.
Hrabě de Angelis also gave exciting insights into the subject of epigenetics: “We cannot change the genetics as such, but we see from studies that we get information both from the mother and father which adhere to the DNA. This information can influence the risk of obesity and diabetes.” The lifestyle of the parents plays a role for the offspring even before pregnancy. That could be a part of the explanation for the epidemic-like increase of diabetes.

Risk factor gestational diabetes
Professor Baptist Gallwitz, DZD scientist at Tübingen University Hospital and president of the German Diabetes Society (DDG), explained that gestational diabetes also means an increased diabetes risk for the child. In the DZD various risk factors for diabetes are under intensive study. Gallwitz stressed: “We need further studies to provide targeted and personalized prevention options.”

Eating habits pose a challenge
Another point researchers should consider in the development of individual prevention concepts is the change in lifestyle that has occurred. DZD scientist Professor Hans Hauner, president of the German Diabetes Foundation Munich, pointed out what happens when eating habits disintegrate: “Many people have no set meal times anymore. They eat spontaneously as the occasion arises. ” Individual physical conditions and personal circumstances interact closely in diabetes risk.

Major role for diabetes research also in the future
In her closing remarks, Bundestag Member Gitta Connemann concluded that diabetes research is already targeted and differentiated, and this area shall be expanded further. “We see the importance of the diabetes for those who are affected by the widespread disease and for society, and we are seeking to find solutions,” said Connemann. This event is intended to raise awareness about this. The panel discussion was initiated and moderated by Bundestag Member Dietrich Monstadt, who reports on diabetes and obesity in the Health Committee of the German Bundestag.
Video recording online
A video recording can be viewed at