Effect of age and race/ethnicity on HbA1c levels in people without known diabetes mellitus: implications for the diagnosis of diabetes

Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2010 Mar;87(3):415-21. doi: 10.1016/j.diabres.2009.12.013. Epub 2010 Jan 12.


Aims: To determine if age and race/ethnicity affect HbA1c levels independent of glycemia.

Methods: We analyzed 2712 individuals from the NHANES III population 40-74 years old without diabetes history.

Results: HbA1c levels increased by 0.10% per decade in people with NGT and 0.07% in those with IFG and/or IGT, independent of fasting and 2-h glucose on OGTT's. Compared to non-Hispanic whites, HbA1c levels increased by 0.12% (NGT) and 0.10% (IFG/IGT) in Mexican-Americans and 0.21% (NGT) and 0.35% (IFG/IGT) in non-Hispanic blacks, independent of glycemia. At HbA1c levels of >or=6.5%, >or=7.0% and 6.5-6.9%, diabetes diagnosed by current FPG/OGTT criteria occurred in 82%, 94% and 65%, respectively. In non-Hispanic blacks with HbA1c levels of 6.5-6.9%, 68% of those 40-74 years old and 87% of those over 64 years old would not have diabetes by FPG/OGTT criteria. Over 90% of all race/ethnicity groups would have diabetes with HbA1c levels >or=7.0%.

Conclusions: Because many people, especially older non-Hispanic blacks, with HbA1c levels of 6.5-6.9% would not have diabetes by current FPG/OGTT criteria and clinical retinopathy and nephropathy are very unusual in patients whose HbA1c levels are kept <7.0%; we recommend an HbA1c level of >or=7.0% to diagnose diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Black or African American
  • Diabetes Mellitus / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus / diagnosis*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / ethnology*
  • Female
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Glycated Hemoglobin / metabolism*
  • Health Surveys
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Population Surveillance
  • Racial Groups
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sex Factors
  • White People


  • Glycated Hemoglobin A