Low levels of a particular protein could signal a greater risk of insulin resistance that could help with determining an increased risk of diabetes years before type 2 diabetes would otherwise develop.
The protein in question is known as sex hormone binding globulin or SHBG for short. Most of our SHBG is produced by the liver but is also produced by other organs including the brain and male and female sex organs.
Previous research has found lower SHBG levels to be linked with a number of metabolic conditions, in addition to type 2 diabetes, including polycystic ovary syndromen, Cushing’s syndrome and hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).
In a large study, carried out by Brown University based in Providence in the United States, 13,547 women were monitored and had their SHBG levels measured as part of the monitoring. In addition, lifestyle factors were measured and monitored through the study. The researchers found that factors linked with higher SMBG levels and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes included increased caffeine intake, having a lower BMI, greater levels of physical activity and having undergone oestrogen replacement therapy.
Lead researcher Dr Simin Liu notes that SHBG levels change in response to a number of environmental factors and therefore provide an early reflection on metabolic health and diabetes risk. The researchers also found that the associations between SHBG levels and health did not vary by ethnicity.
The research is useful as it opens the door to investigating which environmental factors play a significant part in raising SHBG levels and reducing risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

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