Hepatitis C may increase risk of type 2 diabetes

Scientists have known for years that people who have Hepatitis C are up to four times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. An Australian research team has confirmed that these individuals have a high level of insulin resistance in muscle, a common precursor to the disease.

Lead investigators Kerry Lee Milner and Don Chisholm from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney examined 29 people with Hepatitis C. These patients all exhibited high insulin resistance in their muscle tissue, but little evidence of this condition was found in the liver.

"Contrary to all expectations, not only did we find no significant insulin resistance in the liver of the patients in the study, half of them suffered from a strain of Hepatitis C that causes about three times the normal level of fat to accumulate in the liver," said Chisholm.

The researchers injected intravenous glucose into the study participants to trigger insulin secretion and measure resistance. They observed that patients with Hepatitis C produced normal levels of insulin, and suggest that more work needs to be done to understand why these individuals specifically resist insulin in muscle.

They advised people with Hepatitis C - particularly those who have relatives with type 2 diabetes - to manage their diets carefully and get plenty of exercise.