Are Physical Activity and Genetics Linked to Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults?

by Lauren Taylor from In The Cloud Copy

Latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA) is a less often talked about form of diabetes that occurs as the result of the pancreas halting production of adequate amounts of insulin, resulting in uncontrolled blood glucose levels. This is very similar to type one diabetes, but with LADA, most patients won’t need insulin replacement for months to years after diagnosis, whereas in type one, patients need replacement immediately. Researchers question if physical activity could prevent the development of LADA in patients and whether the genes often associated with type one and two diabetes are linked to LADA.

Study Methods

Researchers conducted an ongoing population-based study out of Sweden to see if any controllable lifestyle factors were related to the development of LADA and/or type 2 diabetes. For the study, all cases of LADA patients were invited to participate, while a random collection of patients with type 2 diabetes were used. Patients were classified as either LADA or type 2. Patients were classified as LADA if they met the following criteria: aged 35 or greater, fasting serum C-peptide levels of 0.2 nmol/L or greater, and a positive glutamic acid decarboxylase antibody (GADA). Patients were classified as type 2 diabetics when they had a negative GADA, and a C-peptide of 0.6 nmol/L or higher. Genetic information was analyzed via DNA samples that were given and patients were classified as either high-risk genotype or low/moderate risk genotype.

Physical activity was studied via a questionnaire. Patients were asked their average leisure time physical activity during the year prior to their diagnosis. Patients could select from four responses ranging from sedentary/moderate physical activity for less than 2 hours per week all the way to high physical activity or physical activity that makes you sweat for more than 30 minutes at least three times per week. Body mass index or BMI was also calculated, as well as questions regarding alcohol consumption, tobacco use, and family history of diabetes.

Study Results

The study results displayed that a high level of physical activity, meaning at least 30 minutes of moderate to high level activity as least three times per week was associated with a lower incidence (about 40%) of developing LADA. Further analysis shows that the high level of physical activity associated with lower LADA incidence is only seen in patients who do not carry the high-risk gene variants that were studied. It is likely that the same mechanisms that are seen in physical activity and reduction of risk of type 2 diabetes are the same or similar to those in LADA, such as the impact of body weight on insulin sensitivity.

In regard to the genetic risk factors, the genotypes HLA-DRB1 and HLA-DQB1 are the main risk factors in developing B-cell autoimmunity and eventual B-cell loss of function, which ultimately leads to type 1 diabetes. Individuals with these specific genetic differences are more susceptible to developing LADA despite adequate physical activity simply due to their genetic makeup.

While genetic makeup may predispose an individual to diabetes in any form despite physical activity, in those without any genetic risk should take an active approach to reducing their risk by ensuring they engage in adequate physical activity.

Learn more about this study here.


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