Prediabetes is a precursor to full-blown diabetes, which entails abnormally high blood glucose. This is called a “grey area” because it can lead to diabetes, but if lifestyle changes are made in time, the abnormal effects can be reversed. In our modern age, diabetes has become an epidemic of massive proportions. In 2014 the global prevalence of diabetes was estimated to be 9% among adults aged 18+ years. Scientists from the University of Hawaii Cancer Center have discovered a panel of markers that can point out if a person is prediabetic. By identifying the concentration of certain fatty acids, doctors can offer patients a chance to avoid diabetes altogether.

Can a simple blood test be the key to a better life?

A study published in EBioMedicine looked at two unsaturated fatty acids (UFA) that were found to be predictive of future diabetes risk and diabetes remission after metabolic surgery. Going on these statistics, the levels of these UFA can change up to 10 years before diabetes presents itself. This is an advantage for patients because a simple blood test can now show if they are at risk so that together with a doctor, they can adjust their lifestyle.

"Currently there are no clinical tests that tell you the likelihood of developing diabetes, only exams that tell you for example if someone that is pre-diabetic has relatively high blood sugar or insulin levels," said Dr. Wei Jia director of the UH Cancer Center's Metabolomics Shared Resources Program. "To know if you are likely to get diabetes in a few years is an important discovery. People can hopefully get tested for the disease during physical exams in the future."

The connection between obesity and diabetes

Obesity is considered one of the main contributing factors to the development of type 2 diabetes, and as such, people with obesity have to be monitored closely. But are all obese or overweight people at risk? Research has shown that anywhere from 25 to 40 percent of obese individuals are metabolically healthy. This means that they have no signs or symptoms of complications.

Obesity is part of group of factors that leads to metabolic syndrome, which also include high blood pressure, high blood glucose, high triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol. It should be noted that people with normal weight can also have metabolic syndrome. Whether this is a question of genetics is still up for debate, but what is known for sure is that poor lifestyle choices are the main cause.

The study included a cross-sectional study of metabolically healthy and unhealthy obese patients, which concluded that unhealthy individuals had higher concentrations of dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid and palmitoleic acid (UFAs). A second study showed that changes in these UFAs could appear as much as ten years before the first signs of disease. The other two studies investigated the efficacy of diet and metabolic surgery, the results of which were very positive.

Lifestyle changes can reverse prediabetes

Team BiMedis recommends getting a thorough checkup to see if your blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol are normal.

Here’s a list of things you can do to improve your quality of life:

  • Exercise – The World Health Organization recommends that adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity
  • Diet – Healthy food choices should include fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains and low-fat while cutting down on saturated fats, trans fat, cholesterol and salt.
  • Weight loss – Slow, steady weight loss if you’re overweight or obese.
  • Do away with bad habits – Quit smoking and cut down on alcohol consumption.
  • Get regular check-ups – Schedule visits to your doctor to monitor blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Some individuals may require medicine to help keep these under control.

Light at the end of the tunnel

A diagnostic test to screen for prediabetes is essential to identify at-risk individuals. Research from the University of Hawaii Cancer Center has shed light on two particular unsaturated fatty acids that are directly connected to metabolic health. By performing a simple blood test, doctors can help their patients on the path to a healthy, diabetes-free life.

Global status report on noncommunicable diseases 2014. (2014, May 7). Retrieved December 21, 2015, from

Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. (2015, January 15). Retrieved December 9, 2015, from

Ni Y, Zhao L, Yu H, Ma X, Bao Y, Rajani C, Zhang Y. Circulating

unsaturated fatty acids delineate the metabolic status of obese

individuals / EBioMedicine. 2015. 2(10), 1513-1522.

By Dr. Yuriy Sarkisov, BiMedis staff writer