The Emergence of Frailty May Lead to a State of Burnt Out Type 2 Diabetes

J Frailty Aging. 2016;5(3):162-7.


Ageing is associated with hyperglycaemic tendency due to the change in body composition leading to accumulation of visceral fat and increased insulin resistance on the one hand and reduced insulin secretion due to decreased number and function of the β-cells of the pancreas on the other. However, with the emergence of frailty there may be a tendency towards normoglycaemia or even hypoglycaemia due to malnutrition, weight loss and reduced physiologic reserve. This shift in glucose metabolism induced by frailty may change the natural history of type 2 diabetes from a progressive to a regressive course. Studies which showed increased risk of mortality with low HbA1c included frail patients in the lower HbA1c categories and healthier patients in the higher HbA1c categories suggesting that frailty is a possible confounding factor. Therefore, hypoglycemia may be a prognostic tool to identify vulnerable patients who may be at increased risk of mortality. The metabolic changes of insulin/glucose dynamics associated with frailty need further research.

Keywords: Ageing; insulin; wasting; frailty; diabetes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Body Composition
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / mortality
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology*
  • Frail Elderly*
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Risk Factors


  • Blood Glucose