Chronic inflammation may be a key factor in the link between low socioeconomic status (SES) and a higher risk for type 2 diabetes, according to a new Swiss study.
Past studies have shown that people who experience social adversity tend to be more likely to develop the metabolic disease.
In an effort to understand the mechanisms underlying this associatio, researchers from the University Hospital of Lausanne in Switzerland analysed clinical and social data from the ongoing Whitehall II study of British civil servants working in London.
The team focused on 6387 participants who had provided information on their education level and current occupation (reflective of early adulthood and present socioeconomic status, respectively) as well as their father’s occupation (a proxy for childhood socio-economic status).
They also tracked which participants developed type 2 diabetes and whether and when their blood had shown signs of chronic inflammation .
They found that the risk of type 2 diabetes was much greater for people exposed to low socioeconomic status over their life course, as well as for those who experienced a downward trajectory from high SES in childhood to low SES in adulthood.
In addition, as much as one third of this association was explained by inflammatory processes, with results showing chronically higher levels of inflammatory proteins in the blood among people who had more disadvantaged lives overall.
Lead author Silvia Stringhini said: “Taking together the evidence linking socioeconomic adversity to inflammation and inflammation to type 2 diabetes, it seems reasonable to postulate that chronically increased inflammatory activity in individuals exposed to socioeconomic adversity over the entire lifecourse may, at least partially, mediate the association between SES and future type 2 diabetes risk .”
The findings appear in the latest issue of the journal PLoS Medicine .

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