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Depression may play a direct role in the development of type 2 diabetes, according to research that experts say could help bolster efforts to prevent the disease.

Researchers have discovered a causal relationship and common genetics suggesting that depression may be a cause of type 2 diabetes, a condition that more than 500 million people live with worldwide.

The finding prompted calls for depression to be considered a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, alongside other risk factors such as obesity, inactivity and a family history of the disease.

Researchers suggest people with a history of depression should be assessed for their risk of type 2 diabetes so they can be supported to avoid developing the condition.

Experts have known for years that people with type 2 diabetes are about twice as likely to suffer from depression as those without. It is also well established that people with depression are at a higher risk of developing type 2.

However, until now it was unclear whether depression caused type 2 or vice versa, or whether other factors were at play. In the latest study, researchers discovered for the first time that depression directly leads to an increased risk of developing type 2, but did not find that diabetes causes depression. The results were published in the journal Diabetes Care.

Dr Elizabeth Robertson, research director at Diabetes UK, which funded the study, said: “This hugely important study gives us new insights into the links between genetics, type 2 diabetes and depression, indicating that depression can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes. 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is complex and has multiple risk factors – and previous research has shown that this condition is more common in people with depression.

“This study gives us a better understanding of why and indicates that depression should now be considered a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. This knowledge could help healthcare professionals improve care and support for people with a history depression and prevent more cases of type 2 diabetes.”

The study used data from hundreds of thousands of people in the UK and Finland, including 19,000 people with type 2, 5,000 who were diagnosed with depression and 153,000 who reported depression.

The researchers used a statistical method called Mendelian randomization to analyze genetic and health information. They found that only 36.5% of the effect of depression on type 2 diabetes could be explained by obesity. Obese people are significantly more likely to have type 2 than those of a healthy weight.

The researchers also noted seven genetic variants that contribute to both type 2 diabetes and depression. These shared genes play a role in insulin secretion or inflammation of the brain, pancreas or fatty tissue, changes in these biological processes potentially explaining how depression increases type 2, they suggested.

And although no direct cause has been found for diabetes causing depression, experts still believe that the burden of living with type 2 diabetes may be a factor in the development of depression.

“We strongly encourage anyone with depression to know their risk of type 2 diabetes by completing the free online Know Your Risk Diabetes UK tool, so they can get the right support to reduce their risk and avoid diabetes. type 2,” Robertson said.

Professor Inga Prokopenko, from the University of Surrey, who led the study, said: “Our finding sheds light on depression as a contributing cause of type 2 diabetes and could help improve prevention efforts.

“The findings are important both for people living with this condition and for healthcare providers, who should consider implementing additional tests to help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes in people with the disease. of depression.”