Inflammation links low socioeconomic status to diabetes

Diabetes has long been associated with low income, low occupational status and low education.

In trying to understand the underlying roots between these connections, researchers from the Institute for Social and Preventive Medicine in Switzerland found that chronic inflammation is a major part of the equation.

Inflammatory activity and type 2 diabetes risk

In individuals who have been exposed to socioeconomic challenges over the course of their lives, those with high levels of chronic inflammation were most likely to develop type 2 diabetes, the authors wrote in PLOS Medicine.

Researchers analyzed data from the Whitehall II study, which has followed over 10,000 British civil servants since the mid 1980s. The participants regularly receive health check-ups and provide detailed information about their living status every few years. Honing in on 6,387 patients, the team collected information about education level, occupation and childhood experiences with either wealth or poverty. They also determined which patients had diabetes and chronic levels of inflammation.

Social inequality factor

Results showed that patients who had low socioeconomic status since birth – as well as those who fell from high SES at birth to low SES later in life – were more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Additionally, inflammatory processes could account for about one-third of these associations.

"Assuming that our findings reflect a causal association," the authors wrote, "our results suggest that tackling socioeconomic differences in inflammation, especially among the most disadvantaged groups, might reduce social inequalities in type 2 diabetes."

To determine the extent to which inflammation markers are reversible in this population, more research would be helpful, they noted.

Source: Public Library of Science

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