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05-19-2018 | Risk factors | Review | Article

Prioritising Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes: Causal Inference through Genetic Approaches

Current Diabetes Reports

Authors: Laura B. L. Wittemans, Luca A. Lotta, Claudia Langenberg

Publisher: Springer US


Purpose of the Review

Causality has been demonstrated for few of the many putative risk factors for type 2 diabetes (T2D) emerging from observational epidemiology. Genetic approaches are increasingly being used to infer causality, and in this review, we discuss how genetic discoveries have shaped our understanding of the causal role of factors associated with T2D.

Recent Findings

Genetic discoveries have led to the identification of novel potential aetiological factors of T2D, including the protective role of peripheral fat storage capacity and specific metabolic pathways, such as the branched-chain amino acid breakdown. Consideration of specific genetic mechanisms contributing to overall lipid levels has suggested that distinct physiological processes influencing lipid levels may influence diabetes risk differentially. Genetic approaches have also been used to investigate the role of T2D and related metabolic traits as causal risk factors for other disease outcomes, such as cancer, but comprehensive studies are lacking.


Genome-wide association studies of T2D and metabolic traits coupled with high-throughput molecular phenotyping and in-depth characterisation and follow-up of individual loci have provided better understanding of aetiological factors contributing to T2D.

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