Islet autoantibody positivity in overweight and obese adults with type 2 diabetes

Autoimmunity. 2018 Dec;51(8):408-416. doi: 10.1080/08916934.2018.1547711. Epub 2019 Jan 2.


Islet autoantibodies are typically associated with type 1 diabetes, but have been found in patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in whom they are associated with lower adiposity. The significance of autoantibody positivity in overweight and obese patients is not well understood. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence and clinical significance of islet autoantibodies in overweight/obese adults diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. This study includes 204 participants at one site of the multicenter Look AHEAD (Action for Health in Diabetes) trial ( identifier: NCT00017953) which randomized overweight/obese adults diagnosed with type 2 diabetes to an intensive lifestyle intervention or diabetes support and education. We measured antibodies to glutamic acid decarboxylase, insulinoma antigen-2, and zinc transporter 8. Participants with and without autoantibodies were compared with respect to baseline clinical features, and longitudinal changes in weight, hemoglobin A1c, and antihyperglycemic medications. We found that 13 participants (6.4%) were autoantibody positive, including six of 47 participants (12.8%) with BMI ≥40 kg/m2. At baseline, autoantibody positive participants had higher HDL cholesterol (1.27 vs. 1.09 mmol/L, p = .034) and lower fasting C-peptide (0.32 vs. 0.57 nmol/L, p = .049). Over four years, autoantibody positive participants lost 5.1 kg more weight than autoantibody negative participants (p = .056). Longitudinal changes in hemoglobin A1c did not differ by autoantibody status, though autoantibody positive participants were more likely to increase the number of antihyperglycemic medications or initiate insulin (p = .011). In conclusion, islet autoantibodies were present in 6.4% of overweight/obese adults with type 2 diabetes including those with severe obesity, and were associated with distinct clinical features. The effect of autoantibody positivity on weight loss interventions requires further study.

Keywords: Type 2 diabetes; autoantibodies; autoimmunity; islet cell antibody; obesity; weight loss.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity / immunology
  • Aged
  • Autoantibodies / blood*
  • Autoantibodies / immunology
  • Autoantigens / immunology
  • Autoantigens / metabolism
  • Autoimmunity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / immunology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / rehabilitation
  • Female
  • Healthy Lifestyle
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Islets of Langerhans / immunology*
  • Islets of Langerhans / metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Overweight / blood
  • Overweight / immunology*
  • Overweight / rehabilitation
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Prospective Studies
  • Weight Loss / immunology


  • Autoantibodies
  • Autoantigens
  • Hypoglycemic Agents

Associated data