A new study of treatment data from the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has revealed that routine blood tests for plasma glucose may identify patients who will develop diabetes in the future.

According to the study report, glucose levels measured during standard outpatient tests indicate a patient’s likelihood of developing diabetes over the next five years. This was observed even when the levels did not reach the diagnostic threshold.

The VA researchers believe that these findings will allow preventive intervention in high risk individuals, earlier identification and treatment, and better outcomes in diabetes patients.

The researchers analysed data from more than 900,000 non-diagnosed VA patients who had at least three random plasma glucose tests during a single year.

A five-year follow-up showed that approximately 10% of the total study group developed diabetes.

It was observed that increased random plasma glucose levels that did not reach the diagnostic threshold accurately predicted disease development within the next five years.

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Commonly, a random plasma glucose level of 200mg/dL or higher is considered as the threshold for diabetes diagnosis.

Study data showed that individuals who had at least two 115mg/dL or higher random plasma glucose measurements within a year were very likely to develop diabetes within a few years.

Glucose levels of 130mg/dL or higher were even more predictive, noted the researchers. Those with the highest random plasma glucose levels below 110mg/dL, the disease development was observed to be infrequent.

Additionally, diabetes-related demographics and risk factors such as a high body mass index (BMI) and high cholesterol also predicted the disease.

Random plasma glucose tests alone or combined, however, were found to be better predictors compared to demographics or other risk factors.

Study lead author and Atlanta VA Health Care System physician-researcher Dr Mary Rhee said: “These findings have the potential to impact care in the VA and in the general US population as random plasma glucose levels—which are convenient, low-cost, and ‘opportunistic’—could appropriately prompt high-yield, focused diagnostic testing and improve recognition and treatment of prediabetes and early diabetes.”