Handgrip can detect people at high diabetes risk: Study

A study that measured the muscular handgrip strength of 776 men and women without a history of diabetes over a 20-year period has found that a simple test such as the strength of handgrip could be used as a quick, low-cost screening tool to help identify patients at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

In the 779 study subjects, the risk of type 2 diabetes was reduced by around 50 per cent for every unit increase in handgrip strength value, said scientists at the universities of Bristol and Eastern Finland in a paper published in the journal Annals of Medicine.

Reduced muscular strength, which can be measured by handgrip strength, has consistently been linked to early death, cardiovascular disease and disability.

Until recently, there was inconsistent evidence on the relationship between handgrip strength and type 2 diabetes.

In a recent literature review of 10 published studies on the topic, the same researchers demonstrated that people with higher values of handgrip strength had a 27 per cent reduced risk of developing diabetes.

However, while findings from this review suggested handgrip strength could potentially be used to predict type 2 diabetes, researchers needed to test this formally using individual patient data.

In the latest study, the researchers from Bristol Medical School and Eastern Finland’s Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition followed 776 men and women aged 60-72 years without a history of diabetes over a 20-year period and measured the power of their hand grip strength using a handgrip dynamometer.

Patients were asked to squeeze the handles of the dynamometer with their dominant hand with maximum isometric effort and maintain this for five seconds.

The results demonstrated that the risk of type 2 diabetes was reduced by about 50 per cent for every unit increase in handgrip strength value.

This association persisted even after taking into account several established factors that can affect type 2 diabetes, such as age, family history of diabetes, physical activity, smoking, hypertension, waist circumference and fasting plasma glucose.

When information on handgrip strength was added to these established factors which are already known to predict type 2 diabetes, the prediction of type 2 diabetes improved further, the researchers noted.

“Assessment of handgrip is simple, inexpensive and does not require very skilled expertise and resources and could potentially be used in the early identification of individuals at high risk of future type 2 diabetes,” said lead study author Setor Kunutsor from Bristol’s Musculoskeletal Research Unit.

Importantly, the findings suggested women are more likely to benefit from the use of this potential screening tool.

“We propose larger studies to replicate these findings in other populations and specifically in men and women,” said Professor Jari Laukkanen from the University of Eastern Finland.

In April this year, a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine said that hand grip can help doctors perform time-efficient screening tools for diabetes. The study identified the levels of handgrip strength/weakness that correlate with type 2 diabetes in otherwise healthy men and women, according to their body weights and ages.