Type 2 diabetes diagnosis before age 30 may reduce life expectancy by 14 years

Evan Walker
Evan Walker TheMediTary.Com |
A person holding a Tirzepatide (Mounjaro) injection in front of a box of other injectionsShare on Pinterest
Mounjaro is proving to be an effective treatment for early-onset diabetes, research shows. Sandy Huffaker for The Washington Post via Getty Images
  • Although type 2 diabetes (T2D) is more common in later life, there has been a huge increase in early-onset cases, usually associated with obesity.
  • A new study has found that the life expectancy of people diagnosed with diabetes by the age of 30 is 14 years less than for those without diabetes.
  • However, another study has found that the injectable treatment tirzepatide (Mounjaro) is as effective in those with early-onset diabetes as it is in those who develop the condition later in life.

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that develops when the body either stops making enough insulin — the hormone that controls blood glucose — or stops responding to it.

Insulin moves glucose — produced from the digestion of food — from the blood to cells where it can be used. Insulin resistance, when the cells stop responding to insulin, can lead to prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.

In the past, type 2 diabetes was thought to develop only in older people, and it is still more common in those ages 50 years and older. However, cases in younger people are increasing. Risk factors include obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, close relatives with type 2 diabetes, being of black and minority ethnic origin, and being from a less affluent socioeconomic group.

A new study, published in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, has looked at the effect of a type 2 diabetes diagnosis on life expectancy.

The findings highlight that being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes shortened life expectancy by an average of six years. However, if that diagnosis was at the age of 30, life expectancy was reduced by 14 years.

However, in more promising news, another study found that tirzepatide, a new injectable diabetes drug, is as effective in those with early-onset type 2 diabetes as it is in people who develop the condition later in life.

This research was presented at the Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) in Hamburg, Germany.

In a study using data from two large-scale sources — the Emerging Risk Factors Collaboration and the UK Biobank — researchers investigated associations between age at diabetes diagnosis and life expectancy.

They found that for every decade earlier that type 2 diabetes was diagnosed, life expectancy was reduced by 3-4 years.

“Diabetes, if not well managed, can lead to multiple complications, such as kidney failure, heart disease and amputations, each of which lower life expectancy.”
— Dr. Robert Gabbay, chief scientific and medical officer for the American Diabetes Association, who was not involved in the study, speaking to Medical News Today.

In the United States, compared with a person without diabetes, a 50-year-old with diabetes died on average 14 years earlier if diagnosed at the age of 30, 10 years earlier when diagnosed at 40, or six years earlier when diagnosed at 50. Corresponding estimates for the European Union were 13, nine, or five years earlier.

One of the authors, Prof. Naveed Sattar from the Institute of Cardiovascular & Medical Sciences, University of Glasgow, said in a press release: “Our findings support the idea that the younger an individual is when they develop type 2 diabetes, the more damage their body accumulates from its impaired metabolism.”

However, he added a hopeful note: “But the findings also suggest that early detection of diabetes by screening followed by intensive glucose management could help prevent long-term complications from the condition.”

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