Type 2 Diabetes: Unspecific Symptom Pattern Reveals Elevated Risk

Individuals who suffer from a variety of unspecific somatic symptoms have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The symptom complex is thus an independent risk factor and not associated with classic diabetes risk factors, as scientists of Helmholtz Zentrum München, a partner in the DZD, report in the journal ‘BMC Endocrine Disorders’.

Unspecific somatic symptoms are often the first signs of a chronic disease. These include signs of unusual fatigue, feeling tired, muscle weakness, pain in the joints and limbs, insomnia or headaches. They usually occur as a symptom pattern that is already considered an early warning sign of coronary heart disease. Until now, an association of unspecific symptoms with diabetes onset has not received scientific consideration up to now.

Pattern of symptoms sign of increased type 2 diabetes risk

The team led by Jens Baumert and Karl-Heinz Ladwig of the Mental Health research unit in the Institute of Epidemiology II at Helmholtz Zentrum München, in collaboration with Johannes Kruse of the Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy of the University Hospitals Giessen/Marburg and colleagues of the Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy of TU München analyzed for this purpose population-based data from about 10,000 participants of the MONICA/KORA*-cohort study. Unspecific somatic symptoms were assessed following a score system**. Per score increment the risk of developing type 2 diabetes increased by two percent. This risk increase was independent of classic diabetes risk factors such as obesity, hypertension or smoking.

Independent risk factor for the early detection of diabetes

“Our results reveal a significant increase in risk for subsequent type 2 diabetes onset if an unspecific symptom pattern is present,” said lead author Baumert. “Therefore, such symptom patterns should be considered as a possible early warning sign for diagnosis of this metabolic disease.“

The aim of Helmholtz Zentrum München, a partner in the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD), is to develop new approaches for diagnosis, treatment and prevention of widespread common diseases such as diabetes mellitus.

Further information
*For more than 20 years, the research platform Cooperative Health Research in the Augsburg Region (KORA) has been collecting and analyzing data on the health of thousands of people living in the Augsburg region. The objective is to elucidate the effects of environmental factors, behavior and genes. KORA focuses on the development and course of chronic diseases, in particular myocardial infarction and diabetes mellitus. Risk factors are analyzed with regard to individual health behavior (e.g. smoking, diet, exercise), environmental factors (e.g. air pollution, noise) and genetics. From the perspective of health care research, questions regarding the utilization of health care resources and the cost of health care are also studied.

** Somatic Symptom Scale-8

Original publication:
Baumert, J. et al. (2014), A pattern of unspecific somatic symptoms as long-term premonitory signs of type 2 diabetes: findings from the population-based MONICA/KORA cohort study, 1984-2009, BMC Endocrine Disorders, doi:10.1186/1472-6823-14-87

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