Body weight has been shown to be strongly linked with and increased risk of type 2 diabetes, but it has limitations as up to 35 per cent of obese people are not affected by any kind of metabolic disorder, including type 2 diabetes.
Research from University College Cork shows that inflammatory markers, such as a higher level of white blood cells in the blood, may explain why some people can be classed as both obese and metabolically healthy.
The researchers evaluated data on 2,047 people who took part in the Cork and Kerry Diabetes and Heart Disease Study. Participants were aged between 45 and 74 and included those that were obese as well as those that weren’t.
The study reviewed data on a number of inflammatory markers including C-reactive protein, TNF-alpha (tumor necrosis factor alpha), interleukin 6, plasminogen activator inhibitor-1, adiponectin levels and white blood cell counts.
Participants with lower adiponectin levels and higher white blood cell counts and levels of acute-phase response proteins were more likely to have metabolic disorders such as insulin resistance and evidence of heart disease in participants that were obese and non-obese. Additionally, those that were obese and healthy, showed healthy levels of inflammation markers.
The researchers note that the findings could point to the use of inflammation markers as an additional means of early screening for metabolic conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance (prediabetes). Use of these techniques could be in addition to, or replace body mass index (BMI), in the classification of risk.

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