Glycated haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) measurement is recommended as an alternative to fasting plasma glucose (FPG) for the diagnosis of pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes. However, evidence suggests discordance between HbA1c and FPG. In this study we examine a range of metabolic risk features, pro-inflammatory cytokines, acute-phase response proteins, coagulation factors and white blood cell counts to determine which assay more accurately identifies individuals at increased cardiometabolic risk.
Materials and Methods
This was a cross-sectional study involving a random sample of 2,047 men and women aged 46-73 years. Binary and multinomial logistic regression were employed to examine risk feature associations with pre-diabetes [either HbA1c levels 5.7-6.4% (39-46 mmol/mol) or impaired FPG levels 5.6-6.9 mmol/l] and type 2 diabetes [either HbA1c levels >6.5% (>48 mmol/mol) or FPG levels >7.0 mmol/l]. Receiver operating characteristic curve analysis was used to evaluate the ability of HbA1c to discriminate pre-diabetes and diabetes defined by FPG.
Stronger associations with diabetes-related phenotypes were observed in pre-diabetic subjects diagnosed by FPG compared to those detected by HbA1c. Individuals with type 2 diabetes exhibited cardiometabolic profiles that were broadly similar according to diagnosis by either assay. Pre-diabetic participants classified by both assays displayed a more pro-inflammatory, pro-atherogenic, hypertensive and insulin resistant profile. Odds ratios of having three or more metabolic syndrome features were also noticeably increased (OR: 4.0, 95% CI: 2.8-5.8) when compared to subjects diagnosed by either HbA1c (OR: 1.4, 95% CI: 1.2-1.8) or FPG (OR: 3.0, 95% CI: 1.7-5.1) separately.
In middle-aged Caucasian-Europeans, HbA1c alone is a poor indicator of cardiometabolic risk but is suitable for diagnosing diabetes. Combined use of HbA1c and FPG may be of additional benefit for detecting individuals at highest odds of type 2 diabetes development.