Family history and mood disorder drug play strong role in type 2 diabetes risk

With all the emphasis on the link between obesity and Type 2 diabetes, the risk associated with a family history sometimes gets underplayed by doctors. But it’s long been known that having a parent or sibling with Type 2 diabetes also increases a person’s own risk, and now research suggests that it also heightens the risk of getting prediabetes – particularly in those who aren’t overweight.

Medications may also play a role in Type 2 diabetes risk: A study published Wednesday in JAMA Psychiatry found that children who take anti-psychotic drugs have more than three times the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Adults who take these drugs were already known to be at increased risk, but this is the first time the link was made in children.

The study on family history, published this week in the journal Diabetologia, tested blood sugar levels in more than 8,000 healthy volunteers and found that they were 26 percent more likely to have moderately high levels—caused by an impaired response to the hormone insulin—if they had an immediate family member who had Type 2 diabetes.

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What’s interesting, though, is that the increased risk only pertained to those who weren’t overweight. All of the obese individuals in the study had the same diabetes risk regardless of whether they had a family history.

“This risk is strong,” said study author Dr. Andreas Fritsche, an endocrinologist at the German Center for Diabetes Research. “Family history not only increases the risk for diabetes but also for pre-diabetes.” The condition is dangerous because it raises the risk of heart attacks and often leads to full-blown diabetes.

While Fritsche acknowledged that we can’t change our genes, he pointed out that we can change poor lifestyle habits to lower our risk.

Those with a family history of Type 2 diabetes need to double their efforts to avoid sugary beverages, fast-food, and a sedentary lifestyle, he recommended, even if they’re not overweight.

Perhaps even more of a concern is the extremely heightened risk of Type 2 diabetes associated with the use of mood altering medications in children. The increased risk was associated with the use of atypical antipsychotics like clozapine, aripiprazole, and riperidone and remained for up to a year after the drugs were discontinued.

While these drugs may be vital for those with schizophrenia or bipolar depression, the study authors recommended that their use be restricted only to those with severe symptoms. The drugs are being used more frequently often to treat milder mood problems like obessive compulsive disorder or irritability in children who have autism.