Diabetes: Researchers find new distinct type of diabetes that affects millions worldwide


There are only two types of diabetes – or are there? When most people think of diabetes, they’ll either think of type one or type two. However, scientists have recently discovered a new form of the condition, one that affects not thousands, but millions of people worldwide.

Publishing their findings in the journal Diabetes Care, the group of researchers from the Einstein Global Diabetes Institute (EGDI) say they have discovered a third type of diabetes in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

Thought to be caused by malnutrition, and subsequently referred to as malnutrition-related diabetes, the scientists say it affects tens of millions of people globally.

While the idea of a third type of diabetes is news to many, to those investigating the condition it isn’t new at all.

Meredith Hawkins, founding director of the EGDI, has been working for 12 years to identify the defects which result in malnutrition-related diabetes (MRD).

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Dr Hawkins said of her research: “Current scientific literature offers no guidance on managing malnutrition-related diabetes, which is rare in high-income nations but exists in more than 60 low- and middle-income countries.

“The doctors in those countries read Western medical journals, so they don’t learn about malnutrition-related diabetes and don’t suspect it in their patients.

“We hope our findings will increase awareness of this disease, which is so devastating to so many people and will pave the way for effective treatment strategies.”

The research has been conducted in conjunction with the Global Diabetes Institute.


Can MRD be treated?

Yes, it can. Some recent drugs developed to treat type two diabetes can be used to treat MRD, predominantly those which boost insulin secretion from the pancreas.

Dr Hawkins added MRD’s presence formed part of diabetes’ place in the hierarchy of global health challenges.

She said: “Diabetes has become a true global pandemic.

“One in 10 adults worldwide has the disease, and three-quarters of them—some 400 million people—live in low- and middle-income countries.”

Will we see MRD in the UK?

Evidence suggests MRD is caused by malnutrition, however, the exact causes are not entirely known.

Whether this form of diabetes will show up in the UK is not known and not a topic thoroughly researched.

However, the other two types of diabetes remain prominent health concerns and both require careful management.

This is normally done through diet and through the injection of insulin in the bloodstream.



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