People who receive counselling about their personal genetic-based risk of type 2 diabetes do not become more motivated to take measures to prevent the metabolic disease, a new study has found.
Researchers from the Kaiser Permanente institute in Northern California in Oakland, randomly tested a group of overweight, middle-aged adults hospital patients for 36 genetic markers known to be linked to the development of type 2 diabetes .
Of the 108 patients, 42 with the highest genetic diabetes risk and 32 with the lowest risk were then given a brief counselling session to discuss their results. This was followed by a 12-week group diet and exercise education program, which also involved a further 34 people who had never undergone genetic testing.
Over the 12 weeks, participants shed an average of 8.5 pounds off their initial body weight, and just under one-third (30.6 per cent) lost at least five per cent.
But after comparing the higher risk and lower risk groups with control subjects who didn’t receive counselling, the researchers found no statistically significant differences in participants’ mean weight loss, self-motivation, or adherence to the prevention program.
Lead researcher Dr. Richard Grant, said: “It’s very, very hard to change behaviour. The idea that a number, whether it’s a genetic number or anything, will have a big impact on changing people’s behaviour – it just won’t work.”
Grant and colleagues did note, however, that current genetic tests are limited in their ability to accurately predict a person’s diabetes risk . For example, participants in their study deemed to be at high genetic risk had an approximately 17 per cent chance of becoming diabetic in the next three years – just 8 per cent more than those in the lower risk.
They added that it’s not clear whether having a more accurate genetic-based predictor would motivate people to change their lifestyles to reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes .

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