British Columbia researchers find COVID-19 infections increase diabetes risk

A team of health researchers from British Columbia came to the same conclusion as other scientists, but in a much larger study, people with COVID-19 were found to be at much higher risk. of diabetes.

The study, titled “Association of COVID-19 Infection With Incident Diabetes” and published in the Journal of American Medicine Network, came to its conclusion after studying 629,935 British Columbians, some of whom tested positive for the coronavirus, and others not. From January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2021.

“In this cohort study, SARS-CoV-2 infection was associated with a higher risk of diabetes and may have contributed to a 3-5% excess diabetes burden at the population level,” wrote writes the authors of the study.

“Our study underscores the importance for health agencies and clinicians to be aware of the potential long-term consequences of COVID-19 and to monitor people after COVID-19 infection for new-onset diabetes for a prompt diagnosis and treatment.”

This means that overall, people who contracted COVID-19 during this period had a 15-20% higher risk of developing diabetes.

The provincial health officer called the study important but downplayed potential concerns for the general population, describing it as only a slight increase for most people – with the greatest risk for people who were sicker with COVID-19 and likely overweight. Men were much more likely to develop it than women.

“It was only associated with people who had not received the vaccine,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, who noted that the study did not determine whether obesity or other factors played a role. role. “COVID infections, especially before omicron, may have long-term effects on different organs in the body, and in this case may have had some impact on the pancreas and the cells that produce insulin.”


CTV News wanted an unbiased interpretation of the study, asking Dr. Eric Topol to step in. The cardiologist and founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute is one of the most cited medical researchers in medicine, publishing 1,300 peer-reviewed articles.

“We should be concerned (about the results of the British Columbia study),” he said. “It’s not a panic attack, but it does mean it’s an important condition that puts people at risk for diabetes.”

Topol suggested that the main finding of the research is that doctors should consider diabetes to be more common than they otherwise realize, and should consider whether it is a factor for people facing long symptoms. of covid.

“There is a cumulative risk with additional infections,” the researcher said. “The only good thing is that some people have recovered, they’ve had diabetes, and then they’ve gotten better.”

He also pointed out that this is the twelfth study linking COVID infections and subsequent diabetes diagnoses with “a consistent pattern”: younger people, women, not obese or with mild disease. are less likely to develop diabetes later on, but there is still a significant chance.


The study authors concluded by saying that our healthcare system and frontline workers consider the implications for our healthcare system, and Henry said the province is already working to make better use of staff and resources. existing to serve more patients.

She also acknowledged that while the acute symptoms of a COVID-19 infection are usually brief, the longer-term impacts are increasingly evident.

“It doesn’t just affect the lungs,” Henry said. “We know it can lead to heart disease, we know people who have post-Covid symptoms have issues like neurological issues, they experience fatigue and brain fog and some of the other things we’ve seen are linked to things like diabetes.

Despite this, she defends her decision to remove public health orders for mandatory masking from medical settings, suggesting that optional masking is sufficient given vaccination levels and previous infections with the virus.

“It’s not over,” Topol said of the pandemic. “We have a lot of people who are still suffering from long covid, diabetes and many other conditions and so we have to continue to respect this virus for what it can do.”

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