Why do people who come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds seem to have a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes? Researchers have identified at least one potential player: Chronic inflammation.
In a new study published in the journal PLOS Medicine, researchers from the Institute for Social and Preventive Medicine in Switzerland found an association between socioeconomic status and diabetes risk, and that part of this association could be explained by chronic inflammation.
While inflammation isn't necessarily bad (it's the body's natural defense against infection and injury, after all), chronic inflammation is. Chronic inflammation can come from any number of things, such as obesity, smoking or infections that just won't go away, but at the end of the day, they can be linked to any number of health ills, U.S. News explains:
An endless trickle of immune cells interferes with the body's healthy tissues, triggering genetic mutations that can lead to cancer or the bursting of plaque in an artery wall.
For the new study, researchers looked at data from 6,387 people who were part of the Whitehall II study. They were followed for 18 years (enrolled sometime between 1991 and 1993 and followed until 2007 to 2009). Researchers looked at their current jobs, education levels and fathers' jobs (so that they could try to determine the socioeconomic status they grew up in during childhood). They also examined their diabetes status and evidence in their blood of chronic inflammation (determined by inflammatory markers interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein).
Researchers found that people who had either always had a low socioeconomic status throughout life, or who went from having a high socioeconomic status during childhood to a low socioeconomic status in adulthood, were more likely to develop diabetes.
They found that up to a third of this diabetes-socioeconomic status association was attributed to chronic inflammation.
"Assuming that our findings reflect a causal association, our results suggest that tackling socioeconomic differences in inflammation, especially among the most disadvantaged groups, might reduce social inequalities in Type 2 diabetes," the researchers wrote in the study.