Dutch scientists dampen diabetes hype

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A Dutch epidemiologist and colleagues warn in the BMJ this week that news coverage of a diabetes finding may raise unrealistic expectations. They write that a New York Times story earlier this year quoted a diabetes researcher saying the gene discovery (a variant of the TCF7L2 or transcription factor 7-like 2 gene) could lead to a diagnostic test to identify people who carry the variant gene.

They say that a Scottish scientist headed the research team, which led the Glasgow Herald to report, “Discovery of holy grail will help scientists treat diabetes.”

The editorial acknowledges that the discovery is undeniably noteworthy. But the claim that this discovery will lead to a diagnostic test – and the chance to prevent type 2 diabetes – may not be true and may mislead the public.

“Raising unrealistic expectations – even inadvertently – could distract attention from what can be done by applying what we already know to prevent diabetes and its complications,” they conclude.

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