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Gender, Growing Importance in Diabetes Treatment, Study Says

Jul 22, 2016 04:08 AM EDT
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Diabetes treatment should be more gender-specific, a new study suggested.

The international guidelines for the management of diabetes mellitus (type 2 diabetes) put into consideration factors such as age, social environment, the duration of the illness and associated health complaints.

However, gender is not considered a factor.

According to the researchers from the Medical University of Vienna in Austria, gender is becoming an ever-growing issue, as men and women bear different risks and fall victim to or suffer from a different type of diabetes.

For this reason, the researchers put forth that diabetes treatment should be more personalized and more gender-specific.

From a biological aspect, the researchers said that men are principally at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than women. Women are "protected" for a while due to increased production of the estrogen hormone, until menopause causes hormonal change and reduces this protection.

Men are most at risk because they have a greater amount of stomach fat and more liver fat, as well as a lower sensitivity to insulin regardless of whether or not they are overweight. But the lack of testosterone in men is also a risk factor, and women with a greater amount of male sexual hormones are at a higher risk.

"In contrast, it was shown that the thigh fat, which is more frequent in women due to genetics and estrogen, can even have a protective effect. On the other hand, the stomach circumference in women has a better diabetes predictive power than in men,"Alexandra Kautzky-Willer, diabetes expert, professor for gender medicine in Austria and study author, said in a press release.

"In women, also psychosocial stress, stress on the job as well as lack of decision-making competency at high performance pressure or lack of sleep more frequently lead to diabetes than in men. This is often also intensified due to weight gain."

Men, on the other hand, are more at risk of developing diabetes at a later point in life, the researchers said.

According to the researchers, there are also gender-specific biomarkers, which helps detect diabetes risks early on. For instance, the protein Fetuin-A formed by the liver as well as Copeptin, and proneurotensin are biomarkers in women but not in men.

"Also endocrine disruptors, meaning hormone-active substances, become increasingly important," Jürgen Harreiter, co-researcher of the study, said.

The researchers found that synthetically manufactured substances such as Bisphenol A or Phatalate - risk factors for diabetes - have different effects in men and women.

According to the researchers, the mentioned gender-specific factors in diabetes should be incorporated in the guidelines.

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