Lipid profiling could give early warning of diabetes and heart disease

Fateha Khawaja
April 22, 2022

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) and type 2 diabetes (T2D) are becoming increasingly common with 1/3 of global deaths being caused by CVD and 1 in 10 Americans suffering from T2D. A longitudinal study conducted by Professor Chris Lauber in Germany showed that we can predict individuals at high risk of developing CVD and T2D years before the onset of disease through a simple blood test analysing the lipids in blood plasma. This field of lipidomics, along with understanding genetics and patient history/lifestyle, will allow us to understand when and why the disease occurs, and how we can manage it early.

Food for Thought

Should everyone be tested for this?

All tests will lead to false positive and negative results, therefore rolling a screening programme out will cause unnecessary anxiety for many people. Who should get a test like this done? Perhaps when deciding who to screen, doctors can consider factors such as a patient’s age, ethnicity, family history of CVD and T2D, or other risk factors (e.g. high BMI, smoker, poor diet)? Do you think this blood test should be accessible to all? If someone is already at significantly high risk, do you think results from a blood test like this will make much difference at all?

Benefits vs Costs

A large proportion of the world’s population suffers from these diseases and treatment for both is increasingly expensive. In 2018/2019, the NHS spent £1.07 billion treating and managing diabetes. If diseases are diagnosed later, patients usually have more complications which require more extensive and expensive therapy. If we are able to catch the disease early, or prevent it altogether through this blood test, this would improve a patient’s quality of life significantly and also save a lot of money for the NHS. Does this outweigh the costs of rolling out a large screening programme?  

Sample size and variety

The study was only carried out on 4,000 middle aged Swedish people. Do you think we can introduce a blood test like this just from results of this study alone? It would be important to see if the study had the same levels of effectiveness in other ethnic groups, especially BAME people who are more likely to suffer with both CVD and T2D.

Practice Interview QUestions
  1. What is the impact on our healthcare system of diseases such as T2D and CVD?
  2. What impact would lipidomic profiling have on the NHS if it were to be implemented?
  3. Do you think everybody would make the lifestyle changes needed if they were found to be at a higher risk of acquiring either CVD or T2D?
  4. What would the global impact of this testing be, and do you think it could increase inequalities around the world?
  5. If you were to decide who gets these blood tests and when they are administered, which groups of society would you target first and why?

Extra Reading (optional)