Objectives: To test the hypothesis that the genetic susceptibility to non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus is the same as that to insulin dependent disease and to see whether glucose intolerance is associated with specific HLA haplotypes.
Design: Population based study of men in 1989 first tested for glucose tolerance in 1984. HLA haplotypes, including HLA-A, C, B, DR, and DQ, were defined serologically. HLA haplotype data from a population based Finnish study of childhood diabetes were used for predicting non-insulin dependent diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance.
Setting: Two communities in Finland.
Subjects: Representative cohort of Finnish men aged 70-89, comprising 98 men with non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus and a randomly selected group of 74 men, who served as controls, who were tested for glucose tolerance twice within five years.
Main outcome measures: Non-insulin dependent diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance, blood glucose concentration.
Results: Diabetes associated HLA haplotypes were present in 94% (85/90) of diabetic subjects, 79% (27/34) of subjects with impaired glucose tolerance, and only 13% (3/23) of non-diabetic subjects. In this group of elderly men sensitivity of the diabetes associated HLA haplotypes for non-insulin dependent diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance was 90%, specificity 87%, and predictive power 97%. Mean fasting blood glucose concentration was only just significantly higher in men with diabetes associated haplotypes than in men with no such haplotypes, but there was a substantial difference in blood glucose values two hours after glucose loading (10.4 and 6.4 mmol/l in men with diabetes associated HLA haplotypes and men with no such haplotypes, respectively (p < 0.0001)).
Conclusions: These findings support the hypothesis that specific HLA haplotypes exhibit a common genetic determinant for insulin dependent and non-insulin dependent diabetes. Furthermore, HLA is a major genetic determinant of glucose intolerance in elderly Finnish men. The belief that the HLA predisposition to diabetes is specific for insulin dependent diabetes mellitus is largely incorrect.