The World Health Organisation (WHO) has formally accepted the use of the HbA1c test for the diagnosis of diabetes, rather than the more common method of taking a blood sample and checking it for glucose content. WHO have assessed the HbA1c test as a way of measuring how much glucose is being carried by the red blood cells in the body and shows a person’s levels of blood glucose for the previous two or three months.
The HbA1c test is an easier test for diagnosing, as the use of blood samples meant people sometimes had to fast and then consume a high glucose drink, with blood being taken before and after and the levels of glucose compared.
WHO have stated that the HbA1c test, although more costly, does provide a more practical and easier technique for diagnosing the metabolic condition, but warned that rigorous quality assurance tests must be put in place and measurements standardised.
Ala Alwa, assistant director general of the Non-communicable Diseases and Mental Health Cluster at WHO, commented “Unlike other means of diagnosis, it does not require a patient to fast before a blood sample is take, nor to consume a glucose drink that many people find unpalatable. HbA1c also has the advantage of reflecting the person’s average blood glucose levels over the preceding two–three months.”
Simon O’Neill, director of care, information and advocacy, at charity Diabetes UK, also said “This recommendation does not mean other tests for diagnosing diabetes will be shelved. Doctors will continue to use their clinical judgement about which test is most appropriate for their patients on an individual basis.”

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