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Early detection of Diabetes possible with "METABOLOMICS"

Updated on August 1, 2013

Diabetes - the magnitude of the problem

Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (NIDDM) or type II diabetes is a metabolic disorder, during which muscle, fat or liver cells, fail to respond to the available insulin supply efficiently. The cells become resistant to insulin, due to which the blood glucose fails to get converted to energy within the cells of the body and gets accumulated in blood. This condition is also known as hyperglycemia or high blood sugar. A higher amount of glucose in blood may damage the blood vessels and nerves, further leading to a galore of problems like stroke, eye problems (diabetic retinopathy), gum infections, kidney diseases etc. It is the most common type of Dabetes and according to the WHO statistics, at least 90% of diabetic cases are of NIDDM type. Approximately 246 million people across the world are expected to be suffering from NIDDM. Lack of physical activity and increasing weight are considered to the primary reasons behind this disease. Hence, this disease can be prevented and controlled with changes in life-style. Further, if the risk factor is known, people in higher risk group can be alerted earlier.

Metabolomics - The Potential Identifier

Metabolomics is a branch of science, which involves a comprehensive study of the changes of the small molecule metabolites over time. Metabolites are intermediary products of metabolic reactions. A complete set of all the metabolites within a cell is referred to as metabolome.

According to a common saying, “Prevention is better than cure”. Many preventive measures are advised by health practitioners to delay or prevent the onset of this disease. Some of these preventive measures include:

  • Loosing excess weight
  • Increasing physical activity
  • Maintain healthy eating habits
  • Keeping away from smoking

It is good to adopt these preventive steps to lead an overall healthy life, but many a times we are strictly advised by the doctor to adopt the above measures after our blood glucose levels have touched the borderline or are a little above the borderline. It would be really great if we come to know that we have higher chances of being diabetic, long before the disease actually attacks us. In the case of diabetes, many preventive therapeutic measures have been noted. Moreover, complications related to end organs get accumulated with time. Hence, an early indication of the disease will help us to adopt these preventive measures and can reduce the occurrences of diabetes across the world.

Some risk factors like BMI, genetic predictions and fasting blood glucose have been traditionally used since ages to predict the onset of diabetes but, they suffer from few drawbacks. For example, there is no rule that every obese person (with a higher BMI) becomes diabetic. Polymorphism of diabetes makes genetic studies difficult.

Where Metabolomics can Help

According to the recent research conducted by Wang (2011), investigation of metabolite profile can help to predict the onset of disease several years before onset. Modern technology helps to asses the metabolic status of the whole organism through high throughput profiling. An elevation of five-branched chain, aromatic amino acids was noticed under fasting condition, 12 years before the actual onset of the disease. These amino acids (valine, leucine, isoleucine, tyrosine and phenylalanine) serve as metabolic biomarkers of diabetes

Elevations in circulating amino acids can serve as an alarm long before, in comparison to other normal biochemical measures of testing diabetes. This research also opens the gateway for further research to identify those amino acids which can act as effectors of insulin resistance or modulators of insulin secretion.


Wang, T.J., Larson, M.G., et al. (2011). Metabolite profiles and the risk of developing diabetes. Nat Med, 17(4), 448-53.


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