Sleepless nights can raise the risk of diabetes - even among those who are a healthy weight, according to new research. Insomniacs are more prone to developing the devastating metabolic disorder, say scientists. The study of around a million people across Europe identifies 19 potential triggers - including not getting enough shut-eye. Some are fuelled by obesity but almost half are not - including high blood pressure and smoking. Lead author Professor Susanna Larsson, of the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, said: "Our study confirmed several previously established risk factors and identified novel potential risk factors for type 2 diabetes using the latest summary-level data.
"Findings should inform public health policies for the primary prevention of type 2 diabetes. Prevention strategies should be constructed from multiple perspectives, such as lowering obesity and smoking rates and levels, and improving mental health, sleep quality, educational level and birthweight."
The study found people with insomnia were 17 percent more likely to get type 2 diabetes - the form linked to obesity. When BMI (body mass index) was taken into account this fell to seven percent, reports Diabetologia. Depression and drinking large amounts of coffee were also found to increase the risk. But these links became non-significant when BMI was factored in. The study also identified 15 factors that protect against diabetes including high levels of good cholesterol and total cholesterol, having a healthy birthweight, remaining lean and going to university.
Prof Larsson said: "Type 2 diabetes is a global public health issue, affecting 9 in 100 adults worldwide in 2015 according to the International Diabetes Federation. The increasing prevalence of type 2 diabetes along with severe complications cause an immense disease and economic burden. Therefore, it is important to better understand the causes of type 2 diabetes and establish prevention strategies."
Her team created a 'global atlas' using a technique called 'Mendelian Randomisation'. It uses genetic variants known to be connected with a potential risk factor - such as insomnia - to discover the relations to a disease. The participants with and without type 2 diabetes were drawn from two health databases. They included around 85,000 people of European ancestry with diabetes and more than 900,000 without.
The study also identified a further 21 'suggestive' risk factors where evidence was not quite as strong. These included drinking too much, skipping breakfast, daytime napping, short sleep and consuming too much salt. Prof Larsson said: "This is the first study that has comprehensively assessed the causal associations between a large number of exposures and type 2 diabetes using the latest summary-level data for type 2 diabetes." She said the study design made the results the most reliable and accurate to date.
An estimated 4.7 million people in the UK have diabetes with nine in ten suffering type 2 which is linked to unhealthy lifestyles. Britons are the most sleep deprived people in Europe with around two thirds of adults admitting they do not get the recommended seven hours a night.