A simple blood test can save millions from diabetes

The test checks for the risk of prediabetes, which affects seven million Britons and almost always develops into Type 2 diabetes.

Experts say the findings, published in the European Journal of General Practice, could help doctors provide earlier diagnosis and treatment.

Type 2 diabetes blights the lives of millions of patients across the world. It is the leading cause of blindness in people of working age in the UK and is a major cause of lower limb amputation, kidney failure and stroke.

After analysing the medical history of more than 10,000 patients who were given the test, a spokesman for researchers at Tel Aviv University said the check was a key step towards “nipping diabetes in the bud”.

In some cases, lifestyle changes or medication can head off the disease, which is difficult or impossible to cure once developed.

In healthy people, glucose is absorbed from the blood for use by various tissues.

But the cells of people with Type 2 diabetes are resistant to insulin, which is produced by the pancreas. These individuals have higher than normal blood glucose levels.

People with prediabetes have blood glucose levels somewhere between normal and diabetic.

Blood glucose can be directly tested in several ways, but these tests only provide a snapshot. To get a picture of blood glucose levels over time, doctors test for levels of glycated haemoglobin, or A1c, in the blood. When blood glucose levels are high, more A1c is formed.

Research author Dr Nataly Lerner said: “Our study supports the idea that the A1c test, used to diagnose Type 2 diabetes, can also be used at a much earlier stage to screen for the disease in the high-risk population, like overweight patients.”

Dr Nick Oliver, diabetes consultant at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “There is a race on, that’s why what we are doing is incredibly exciting.

“There are lots of avenues that will lead to potential cures for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and if I could see it in my career that would be incredibly exciting.

“Diabetes can’t be cured at the moment. The race is on to get effective treatments for people. Their quality of life is important.”