People suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have a significant risk of developing type 2 diabetes. PTSD is a prolonged stress response syndrome whose symptoms develop in the aftermath of extremely stressful life events of exceptionally threatening or catastrophic nature. A correlation between stress from mental illnesses and diabetes mellitus has already been under discussion for some time, but now Dr. Karoline Lukaschek from the Institute of Epidemiology II (EPI II) at the Helmholtz Zentrum München (HMGU) and Prof. Johannes Kruse from the Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, University Hospital Gießen and Marburg, and their colleagues have been able to provide the first proof of a significant association between the two illnesses.
To this end, they analyzed data from the population-based KORA cohort study in which the data were collected by means of a standardized survey of all participants and also a glucose tolerance test. A total of 50 participants was identified who suffered from PTSD, as well as an additional 261 who displayed symptoms of partial PTSD. The study population also included 498 participants who suffered from manifest type 2 diabetes and 333 subjects who displayed signs of a pre-diabetic metabolic state. The evaluation resulted in a significant association between type 2 diabetes and PTSD; prediabetes, on the other hand, was not associated with psychological stress. The scientists surmise that the chronic stress that PTSD patients permanently suffer leads to changes in the hormonal response patterns. This can have a morbid influence on the metabolism and the glucose utilization. Subsequent studies should now examine the temporal and causal relationships further.
“Further clarification of the relationships between psychological factors and metabolic disorders will be an important task for diabetes research in the future”, remarked Prof. Karl-Heinz Ladwig, research group leader at EPI II. “Patients with PTSD and other mental disorders should be given therapy that includes treatment of metabolic risk factors.”
The development of new approaches to the diagnosis, therapy and prevention of major widespread diseases such as diabetes mellitus are goals of the Helmholtz Zentrum München. Almost ten percent of the population in Germany is affected by diabetes mellitus. The study was supported by the Competence Network Diabetes Mellitus and the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD), in which the Helmholtz Zentrum München is a partner.
Lukaschek, K. et al. (2013), Relationship between posttraumatic stress disorder and Type 2 Diabetes in a population-based cross-sectional study with 2970 participants, Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 74, 340-345
Helmholtz Zentrum München, as German Research Center for Environmental Health, pursues the goal of developing personalized medical approaches for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of major widespread diseases such as diabetes mellitus and lung diseases. To achieve this, it investigates the interaction of genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle. The head office of the Center is located in Neuherberg in the north of Munich. Helmholtz Zentrum München has a staff of about 2,100 people and is a member of the Helmholtz Association, a community of 18 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centers with a total of about 34,000 staff members. www.helmholtz-muenchen.de
The German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD) brings together experts in the field of diabetes research and interlinks basic research, epidemiology and clinical applications. Members are the German Diabetes Center in Düsseldorf, the German Institute of Human Nutrition (DIfE) in Potsdam-Rehbrücke, Helmholtz Zentrum München – German Research Center for Environmental Health, the Paul Langerhans Institutes of the University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus in Dresden and the University of Tübingen, as well as the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Association and the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. The objective of the DZD is to find answers to open questions in diabetes research by means of a novel, integrative research approach and to make a significant contribution to improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diabetes mellitus. www.dzd-ev.de
The Competence Network Diabetes Mellitus is a research network that has been supported by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) since 2008. With more than 60 experts, it is dedicated to the goal of acquiring greater clarity with regard to the prevention, treatment and development conditions of diabetes mellitus. Such clarity would make it possible one day to prevent or delay the disease or to guarantee improved care for the population. www.kompetenznetz-diabetes-mellitus.net
The Institute of Epidemiology II (EPI II) focuses on the assessment of environmental and lifestyle risk factors which jointly affect major chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and mental health. Research builds on the unique resources of the KORA cohort, the KORA myocardial infarction registry, and the KORA aerosol measurement station. Aging-related phenotypes have been added to the KORA research portfolio within the frame of the Research Consortium KORA-Age. The institute’s contributions are specifically relevant for the population as modifiable personal risk factors are being researched that could be influenced by the individual or by improving legislation for the protection of public health.
For more than 20 years, the research platform Cooperative Health Research in the Augsburg Region (KORA) has been collecting and analyzing data on the health of thousands of people living in the Augsburg region. The objective is to elucidate the effects of environmental factors, behavior and genes. KORA focuses on the development and course of chronic diseases, in particular myocardial infarction and diabetes mellitus. Risk factors are analyzed with regard to individual health behavior (e.g. smoking, diet, exercise), environmental factors (e.g. air pollution, noise) and genetics. From the perspective of health care research, questions regarding the utilization of health care resources and the cost of health care are also studied. www.helmholtz-muenchen.de/kora
Prof. Dr. Karl-Heinz Ladwig, Helmholtz Zentrum München – Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt (GmbH), Institut für Epidemiologie II, Ingolstädter Landstr. 1, 85764 Neuherberg – Tel.: 089-3187-3623 – E-Mail: ladwig(at)helmholtz-muenchen.de