Numerous risk factors cause diabetes

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Many causes: Everyone can get diabetes

Until recently, unhealthy diet, obesity and lack of exercise were considered the main causes of diabetes. However, numerous studies have now shown that diabetes is far more complex than originally thought. Obesity and lack of exercise are therefore only two of numerous risk factors that can cause diabetes.

Six million people suffer from diabetes in Germany today, with obesity and lack of exercise being the main causes. But the professor of diabetology at the University Clinic in Tübingen and press spokesman for the German Diabetes Association, Andreas Fritsche, now points out in a recent message that this relatively simple explanation of diabetes can no longer apply today. According to the expert, risk factors for diabetes include, for example, lack of sleep, shift work, air pollution and contact with various chemicals. "It seems so banal when we mention healthy eating and more exercise as preventive measures, but unfortunately not everyone affected benefits," emphasized the professor of diabetology.

Insulin used for diabetes treatment for the first time 90 years ago The first successful treatment of a diabetes patient with insulin was some 90 years ago. In 1922, the Canadian orthopedic surgeon Frederick Grant Banting and his student Charles Herbert Best managed to isolate the insulin from the pancreas in order to save the life of a thirteen-year-old patient. The hope after the successful treatment was high and the scientists were certain that they would soon be able to cure diabetes. But to date, diabetes has only been able to relieve symptoms, but not to cure the disease itself. In addition, the causes of the disease are still not fully understood and the more intensively the researchers try to get to the bottom of it, the more risk factors they seem to discover. Martin Hrabé de Angelis, Director of the Institute for Experimental Genetics at the Helmholtz Zentrum München, concluded: "We have long underestimated the complexity of the disease."

Only a few diabetics suffer from type 1 diabetes. The risk factors vary depending on the type of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes, which affects around five percent of diabetics in Germany, is caused by an absolute lack of the hormone insulin. This type of diabetes usually occurs in childhood and adolescence, whereby the immune system targets and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. The resulting insulin deficiency causes diabetes. Why the immune system attacks its own body cells has so far not been clarified. Type 1 diabetes is still incurable, but can be treated relatively well with insulin. In order to adjust their blood sugar levels, those affected depend on the administration of insulin throughout their lives, not least to avoid secondary diseases such as eye diseases (diabetic retinopathy), vascular diseases (arteriosclerosis), nerve damage and kidney diseases.

Type 2 diabetes influenced by numerous risk factors The majority of diabetes diseases, at around 90 percent, are colloquially referred to as type 2 diabetes. In principle, this disease can also affect young people, but the risk increases considerably with age - hence the name. Type 2 diabetes usually only develops in the course of life and is favored by a wide variety of risk factors. This includes the aforementioned unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, overweight, lack of sleep, shift work and air pollution. Type 2 diabetics may also have to inject insulin all their life and cure has so far been ruled out. Little has changed in the treatment of diabetes in the past 90 years. Only the concentration of the active ingredients and the shape or handling of the syringe have been adjusted several times. Over the years, however, public perception of the disease has changed noticeably, explained Professor of Diabetology, Andreas Fritsche. "Diabetes is often mistakenly seen as a disease that does not require treatment and is underestimated by doctors and patients," complained the expert, stressing that diabetes is "a chronic disease" that "gets worse" over the years if there is no adequate treatment.

Genetic causes of diabetes However, the researchers agree that, according to the current state of research, therapy cannot apply to all diabetics, but that, depending on the clinical picture and patient, individualized treatment methods that are specifically tailored to diabetes patients and their life situation are derived should. In addition, the experts hope to make considerable progress in the field of genetic research into the causes of diabetes in the next few years. "We have just got to know 40 genes that we know can be associated with diabetes," emphasized the director of the Institute for Experimental Genetics at Helmholtz Zentrum München, Hrabé de Angelis. However, the scientists are aware that not all of the answers can come from genetics, but that further research must also be carried out in the area of ​​environmental factors. (fp)

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Diabetes: on the way to widespread disease
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