Risk factors for type 2 diabetes mellitus: An exposure-wide umbrella review of meta-analyses

PLoS One. 2018 Mar 20;13(3):e0194127. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0194127. eCollection 2018.


Background: Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is a global epidemic associated with increased health expenditure, and low quality of life. Many non-genetic risk factors have been suggested, but their overall epidemiological credibility has not been assessed.

Methods: We searched PubMed to capture all meta-analyses and Mendelian randomization studies for risk factors of T2DM. For each association, we estimated the summary effect size, its 95% confidence and prediction interval, and the I2 metric. We examined the presence of small-study effects and excess significance bias. We assessed the epidemiological credibility through a set of predefined criteria.

Results: We captured 86 eligible papers (142 associations) covering a wide range of biomarkers, medical conditions, and dietary, lifestyle, environmental and psychosocial factors. Adiposity, low hip circumference, serum biomarkers (increased level of alanine aminotransferase, gamma-glutamyl transferase, uric acid and C-reactive protein, and decreased level of adiponectin and vitamin D), an unhealthy dietary pattern (increased consumption of processed meat and sugar-sweetened beverages, decreased intake of whole grains, coffee and heme iron, and low adherence to a healthy dietary pattern), low level of education and conscientiousness, decreased physical activity, high sedentary time and duration of television watching, low alcohol drinking, smoking, air pollution, and some medical conditions (high systolic blood pressure, late menarche age, gestational diabetes, metabolic syndrome, preterm birth) presented robust evidence for increased risk of T2DM.

Conclusions: A healthy lifestyle pattern could lead to decreased risk for T2DM. Future randomized clinical trials should focus on identifying efficient strategies to modify harmful daily habits and predisposing dietary patterns.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution / adverse effects
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology*
  • Diet / adverse effects
  • Exercise
  • Humans
  • Life Style*
  • Obesity / complications
  • Risk Factors

Grants and funding

The authors received no specific funding for this work.