Gene Variant May Predispose Latinos to Both Type 2 Diabetes and Low Body Weight

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By : dLife Editors

A well-known gene variant linked to Type 2 diabetes may also predispose people to have lower body weight, new research finds.

The contradictory finding, according to scientists, underscores the importance of genetic data and individualized diabetes risk assessments.

Researchers looked at a well-known gene variant linked to Type 2 diabetes, called transcription Factor-7 like 2-gene. The study is one of the first studies of the TCF7L2 gene in a very large, representative sample of diverse Hispanic Latinos.

In the United States, Hispanic Latinos face a striking disparity in Type 2 diabetes, with one in two developing Type 2 diabetes. This population is also 50 percent more likely than Caucasians to die of Type 2 diabetes.

“The counterintuitive discovery that some people are predisposed to both being thin and developing Type 2 diabetes refocuses our attention on the need to collect data in diverse populations and across time,” says Dr. Kari North, senior author of the study.

“Hispanic Latinos are a diverse and understudied population, so this study is an important step forward for understanding their health risks,” she adds.

What was the study design?

The researchers, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, used population-based study data from more than 9,000 Hispanic Latino adults, ages 21 to 76 years old.

The assessed complete weight history and genetic data from the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos.

The study used cohort data with detailed medical histories, allowing the research team to demonstrate that leanness and Type 2 diabetes co-occur at a high rate in this diverse Hispanic Latino population.

Using complex modeling, researchers looked at the impact of a specific complex gene variant on changes in body mass index and then estimated the odds of Type 2 diabetes across time.

This information may be used in the future to tailor treatments to populations and individuals to help prevent diabetes or better control blood glucose levels once they develop diabetes.

The research paper notes that the transcription Factor-7 like 2 gene is not routinely screened for in clinical practice.


An important takeaway from this study, according to North, which is especially timely now during National Hispanic Heritage Month, is that diverse populations, like Hispanics, who have ancestry from the Americas, Europe, and Africa, are heterogeneous with distinct genetics.

“As we continue to develop initiatives around personalized medicine, we need to make sure that we are addressing the needs of all populations, North adds.”

In the future, researchers hope the genetic information will help scientists understand the causes of diabetes and obesity and understand their relationship to each other.

This can lead to personalization in medication and help clinicians offer better treatment and advice on adopting healthy lifestyles.

This study was published in the journal BMC Obesity.


  1. “Study finds gene variant predisposes people to both Type 2 diabetes and low body weight.” The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. October 2, 2018). Retrieved from: