Diabetes and stress

20 October 2014        

Diabetes finger-prick test

Exploring how stress affects the body could help identify better ways of managing people's risk of diabetes.

Dr Sanjay Thakrar
Research Adviser

In a study funded by us, scientists at University College London (UCL) and the University of Zurich have found that people with type 2 diabetes are physically less able to recover from stress.

The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, analysed data from 420 men and women, between 50 and 75 years old, matching their age, gender and income and found that people with diabetes were less able to bring their blood pressure, heart rate and cholesterol back to normal after a stressful test.

The study shows a link between the biological processes involved in stress and type 2 diabetes. The results do not demonstrate that extra strain on the body from stress is either a cause or consequence of type 2 diabetes, but highlight the potential of treatments that target both the psychological and physical effects of illness.

These findings could lead to new approaches in the prevention and treatment of diabetes, targeting the wide number of biological changes that take place as a result of the disease.

Managing diabetes risk

Professor Andrew Steptoe, BHF Professor of Psychology and Director of the Institute of Epidemiology and Healthcare at UCL, lead researcher on the study said:

“Our study is the first to link psychological stress with the underlying biology, and show that there is a difference in the biological response to stress of people who have diabetes and those who don’t.

“Exploring exactly how stress affects the body at this level is a step towards identifying better ways of managing people’s risk of diabetes”

Dr Sanjay Thakrar, our Research Adviser, said:

“Diabetes is a known risk factor for coronary heart disease, but the role of stress is less defined. This study highlights the need for a multi-faceted approach to treating diabetes.

“People cope with stress in many different ways. Notably, a balanced diet and regular physical activity will not only help you deal with stress, but also improve your heart health.”

Researching diabetes and heart disease

We fund hundreds of top scientists like Professor Andrew SteptoeThey’re all fighting to help heart patients: finding new and better treatments for people with heart disease and developing new ways to better prevent or diagnose it.

Like all the studies we fund, this research relies on donations from the public.

Donate now to help us fund more life-saving research.