Changing perspectives in diabetes: their impact on its classification

Diabetologia. 2007 Aug;50(8):1587-92. doi: 10.1007/s00125-007-0665-5. Epub 2007 Apr 25.


Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are usually regarded as distinct disorders, but the convergence of their phenotypes over recent years, the relationship of body weight to the risk of type 1 diabetes, the diminishing importance of the type 1 susceptibility genes and the finding of autoantibodies in patients with type 2 diabetes, invite a different interpretation. The possibility that type 1 and type 2 diabetes, rather than being different, are merely poles of a single spectrum, where variation in the tempo of beta cell loss determines age at onset and symptoms at presentation, has important implications. Correct classification is crucial because it directs appropriate treatment and, where available, prevention. This article argues that type 1 diabetes is currently misclassified, provides evidence that insulin resistance drives type 1 diabetes as it does type 2, and proposes how the 'accelerator hypothesis' can be tested in a randomised controlled trial, which could demonstrate, for the first time, the safe and effective prevention of type 1 diabetes.

MeSH terms

  • Autoimmunity
  • Diabetes Mellitus / classification*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / genetics
  • Diabetes Mellitus / physiopathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / classification
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / genetics
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / physiopathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / classification
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / genetics
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Phenotype