We examined how the prevalence of individuals diagnosed with diabetes differs by age and sex using the diagnostic criteria of fasting plasma glucose (FPG) and/or glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) in a large Japanese population.
We conducted a cross-sectional study using a dataset of 33,959 people (16,869 men and 17,090 women) without known diabetes who underwent health checkups from 1998 to 2006. We divided the age range of the participants into six groups of similar numbers. We compared the prevalence of diabetes using the criteria of FPG ≥7.0 mmol/l (126 mg/dl), HbA1c ≥48 mmol/mol (6.5%), or both, in men and women in each age group.
Men had higher prevalence of diabetes than women using the criterion of either FPG or HbA1c (7.5% men vs. 3.4% women, P<0.001), or both (4.3% men vs. 1.8% women, P<0.001). HbA1c increased steadily in women through the six age groups. In the oldest group (≥66 years), the proportion of women among those diagnosed with diabetes was as high as 42.3% (215/508) using the criterion of either FPG or HbA1c, and 41.6% (116/279) using both criteria.
Using either FPG or HbA1c, the prevalence of people diagnosed with diabetes would almost double compared to using the criterion of both scores, and this would include more elderly women than men. The impact of introducing HbA1c for diabetes diagnosis should be considered in terms of age and sex.
Citation: Inoue M, Inoue K, Akimoto K (2012) Effects of Age and Sex in the Diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes Using Glycated Haemoglobin in Japan: The Yuport Medical Checkup Centre Study. PLoS ONE 7(7): e40375. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0040375
Editor: Linda M. Niccolai, Yale School of Public Health, United States of America
Received: April 24, 2012; Accepted: June 4, 2012; Published: July 5, 2012
Copyright: © 2012 Inoue et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Funding: The authors have no support or funding to report.
Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
The most recent change in the diagnostic criteria for type 2 diabetes was the addition of glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) as a criterion. In 2010, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and an International Expert Committee proposed a threshold of HbA1c ≥48 mmol/mol (6.5%) or higher for diabetes –. Using the new criteria, diabetes can be diagnosed by either fasting plasma glucose (FPG), 2-h plasma glucose by oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT), and/or HbA1c.
The Japan Diabetes Society (JDS) had been working on national standardization of HbA1c measurement since the early 1990s. In 1999, it included high HbA1c as an adjunct condition when diabetes diagnosis was suspected because of a single high plasma glucose reading . In 2010, the JDS proposed including elevated HbA1c as the fourth condition regarded as to indicate diabetic type in addition to elevated FPG, 2-h PG, or random plasma glucose (RPG) –. For the clinical use of this diagnosis, elevated PG should be confirmed by another test; however, if PG and HbA1c are measured at the same time and both are high, the diagnosis is confirmed without repeating the test .
The utility of HbA1c in diabetes screening is under discussion –, even after its introduction as part of the diagnostic criteria. Advantages of using HbA1c  are that it is convenient because it does not require fasting, reflects long-term glycaemia, and has less day-to-day variability and greater pre-analytical stability than PG. Moreover, the measurement of HbA1c is now internationally standardized in many developed countries. However, whether people diagnosed using HbA1c have different characteristics from those diagnosed by conventional criteria remains to be investigated , –, as well as how well diagnoses using HbA1c predicts future risk of end-organ complications and mortality –. Furthermore, reports on the effect of age – and sex  on HbA1c values raise the question of whether the use of universal cut-off values for HbA1c is appropriate –.
Materials and Methods
We used a dataset derived from the health screening program performed by the Yuport Medical Checkup Centre in Tokyo, Japan, described in our previous studies –. During April 1998 to March 2006, 34,303 persons aged 15–93 years who were without known diabetes voluntarily underwent checkups. We excluded 344 because they lacked data for FPG or HbA1c, and analyzed the data of 33,959 persons (16,869 men and 17,090 women). In accordance with the Private Information Protection Law, information that might identify subjects was safeguarded by the centre. Informed consent for anonymous participation in epidemiological research was obtained at every check-up .
A blood sample was obtained after overnight fasting and measured at the centre's laboratory. For measurements of FPG and HbA1c levels, a Toshiba TBA-40FR Autoanalyzer (Toshiba Medical Systems, Tokyo, Japan) was used. PG level was measured using the hexokinase/glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase method (Denka Seiken, Niigata, Japan) with an inter-assay coefficient of variation (CV) of ≤3.0%. HbA1c level was measured by the latex immune-agglutinin method (Determiner haemoglobin A1c, Kyowa Medex, Tokyo, Japan) with an inter-assay CV of 1.7–2.1%, comparable to that of PG and aligned with JDS assigned values . HbA1c values were converted to and reported as National Glycohemoglobin Standardization Program (NGSP) equivalent values (%) by adding 0.4 (%) to JDS values, using a JDS-determined formula .
We divided the age range of the participants (15–93 years, mean 51.7 with standard deviation 13.1 years) into six groups of similar size. The six age groups were ≤37, 38–45, 46–53, 54–59, 60–65, and ≥66 years. The mean values of FPG and HbA1c in men and women in each age group are in Figure 1 with error bars as 95% confidence intervals (CI). In each age group, we compared the values of men and women using a t-test. We described the prevalence of individuals diagnosed with diabetes using either FPG ≥7.0 mmol/l (126 mg/dl) or HbA1c ≥48 mmol/mol (6.5%), FPG alone, HbA1c alone, or both values, according to the ADA and the JDS guidelines for diabetes diagnosis , . Prevalence rates were compared between men and women in each age category using a chi-square test. Statistical significance was determined at P<0.05. All statistical analyses were performed with PASW Statistics version 18.0 (IBM, NY, USA).
The trends of mean FPG and HbA1c values according to age categories are in Figure 1. Men's FPG values were significantly higher than women's values throughout the six age groups (P<0.001), however, the difference became smaller in age groups 60 years and over. For HbA1c, except for the ≥66-year group, men's mean values were higher than women's, and the difference also became smaller as age increased. In women, mean values for both FPG and HbA1c showed a steady increase as age increased (P<0.001). In men, no significant increase in FPG and HbA1c was observed in age groups 4 through 6 (54 years and over).
Table 1 shows the prevalence for meeting the diagnostic criteria of FPG and HbA1c, FPG only, HbA1c only, and either, by age and sex. Using either criterion, 5.4% (1841/33,959) were diagnosed with diabetes; however, among these, 56.5% (3.1% of the total population) met both criteria. Men had a consistently higher prevalence of diabetes than women using the criterion of FPG and/or HbA1c throughout the age groups (P<0.001).
Using FPG and/or HbA1c criteria, the prevalence of diabetes increased steadily as age became higher in women, while in men, it remained similar in age groups over 54. In the oldest group (≥66 years), the proportion of women among those diagnosed with diabetes was as high as 42.3% (215/508) using the criterion of either FPG or HbA1c, and 41.6% (116/279) using both criteria.
Our results suggested that attention should be given to age and sex when using HbA1c in diabetes screening. As reported in previous studies –, HbA1c and FPG values differ significantly by age and sex. The prevalence of diabetes was significantly higher in men than in women, and increased consistently in higher age groups in women. In women, HbA1c rose steadily as age increased, and in older age groups, more people were diagnosed by HbA1c than by FPG only.
Two previous studies in East Asian population reported a 2.2-fold  and a 2.1-fold  increase in the prevalence of diabetes diagnoses using either FPG or HbA1c criterion compared to using both, while our study reported a 1.8-fold increase. This might be related to higher overall prevalence of undiagnosed diabetes (5.4% by HbA1c or FPG) in our study than the others (4.1% and 3.6%) –. Despite these slight differences, we conclude that if HbA1c is introduced for diagnoses as proposed by the ADA, prevalence could almost double in East Asian populations as compared to the use of both FPG and HbA1c.
Our results suggested that using HbA1c would diagnose more elderly women than diagnosis using FPG alone or in combination with FPG, as in other studies , . For the effective management of diabetes to prevent long-term vascular complications, detecting the disease at an early stage is necessary . However, the impact and the effectiveness of diagnosing late onset diabetes in the elderly for the prevention of complications should also be investigated . In those who are ≥66 years of age, using either HbA1c or FPG as the criterion would label one in ten elderly as having untreated diabetes. This would be approximately 3 million people in Japan, and total medical costs to treat all of them would be tremendously high. The benefit of vigorously treating mild diabetes with onset at later stage of life is still unknown compared to the early treatment of young adults who are assumed to have higher risk of developing long-term complications –.
Our study has several limitations. First, we did not duplicate FPG measurements twice or 2-h glucose by OGTT, so we could not compare the diagnostic utility of HbA1c with these tests. For epidemiological studies, however, estimation of diabetes prevalence and incidence using a single elevated HbA1c or FPG is considered acceptable –. Second, the participants of our study were a healthy population who had voluntarily enrolled in a health check-up program. They might have had higher awareness in health maintenance than the general population. Screening for diabetes in a random population might reveal a higher percentage of undiagnosed diabetes by using any criteria.
Our study has a strength in the large sample size with similar numbers of men and women and the wide range of the participant' age distribution. Our results clearly illustrated the effects of age and sex on FPG and HbA1c, and showed that elderly women were more likely to be diagnosed as having diabetes by introducing HbA1c rather than using FPG alone. The need to adjust the cut-off values of HbA1c for screening of diabetes by age and sex needs to be researched considering the risk of developing long-term complications.
We are indebted to Mrs. Tetsusya Hayashi and Kiyonori Uchiyama for their assistance with data collection.
Conceived and designed the experiments: MI KI KA. Performed the experiments: KA. Analyzed the data: MI KI. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: MI. Wrote the paper: MI.
- 1. American Diabetes Association (2011) Diagnosis and classification of diabetes mellitus. Diabetes Care 34: S62–9.Association American Diabetes2011Diagnosis and classification of diabetes mellitus.Diabetes Care34S629
- 2. The International Expert Committee (2009) International Expert Committee Report on the Role of the A1C Assay in the Diagnosis of Diabetes. Diabetes Care 32: 1327–1334.The International Expert Committee2009International Expert Committee Report on the Role of the A1C Assay in the Diagnosis of Diabetes.Diabetes Care3213271334
- 3. Kuzuya T, Nakagawa S, Satoh J, Kanazawa Y, Iwamoto Y, et al. (1999) Report of the Committee of Japan Diabetes Society on the Classification and Diagnostic Criteria of Diabetes Mellitus. J Japan Diab Soc 42: 385–404.T. KuzuyaS. NakagawaJ. SatohY. KanazawaY. Iwamoto1999Report of the Committee of Japan Diabetes Society on the Classification and Diagnostic Criteria of Diabetes Mellitus.J Japan Diab Soc42385404
- 4. Seino Y, Nanjo K, Tajima N, Kadowaki T, Kashiwagi A, et al. (2010) Report of the Committee of Japan Diabetes Society on the Classification and Diagnostic Criteria of Diabetes Mellitus. J Japan Diab Soc 53: 450–467.Y. SeinoK. NanjoN. TajimaT. KadowakiA. Kashiwagi2010Report of the Committee of Japan Diabetes Society on the Classification and Diagnostic Criteria of Diabetes Mellitus.J Japan Diab Soc53450467
- 5. The Committee of Japan Diabetes Society on the Diagnostic Criteria of Diabetes Mellitus (2010) Report of the Committee on the classification and diagnostic criteria of diabetes mellitus. Diabetol Int 1: 2–20.The Committee of Japan Diabetes Society on the Diagnostic Criteria of Diabetes Mellitus2010Report of the Committee on the classification and diagnostic criteria of diabetes mellitus.Diabetol Int1220
- 6. Bennett CM, Guo M, Dharmage SC (2007) HbA(1c) as a screening tool for detection of Type 2 diabetes: a systematic review. Diabet Med 24: 333–343.CM BennettM. GuoSC Dharmage2007HbA(1c) as a screening tool for detection of Type 2 diabetes: a systematic review.Diabet Med24333343
- 7. Buell C, Kermah D, Davidson MB (2007) Utility of A1C for diabetes screening in the 1999 2004 NHANES population. Diabetes Care 30: 2233–2235.C. BuellD. KermahMB Davidson2007Utility of A1C for diabetes screening in the 1999 2004 NHANES population.Diabetes Care3022332235
- 8. Saudek CD, Herman WH, Sacks DB, Bergenstal RM, Edelman D, et al. (2008) A new look at screening and diagnosing diabetes mellitus. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 93: 2447–2453.CD SaudekWH HermanDB SacksRM BergenstalD. Edelman2008A new look at screening and diagnosing diabetes mellitus.J Clin Endocrinol Metab9324472453
- 9. Cohen RM, Haggerty S, Herman WH (2010) HbA1c for the diagnosis of diabetes and prediabetes: is it time for a mid-course correction? J Clin Endocrinol Metab 95: 5203–5306.RM CohenS. HaggertyWH Herman2010HbA1c for the diagnosis of diabetes and prediabetes: is it time for a mid-course correction?J Clin Endocrinol Metab9552035306
- 10. Mostafa SA, Davies MJ, Webb D, Gray LJ, Srinivasan BT, et al. (2010) The potential impact of using glycated haemoglobin as the preferred diagnostic tool for detecting Type 2 diabetes mellitus. Diabet Med 27: 762–769.SA MostafaMJ DaviesD. WebbLJ GrayBT Srinivasan2010The potential impact of using glycated haemoglobin as the preferred diagnostic tool for detecting Type 2 diabetes mellitus.Diabet Med27762769
- 11. Rathmann W, Kowall B, Tamayo T, Giani G, Holle R, et al. (2012) Hemoglobin A1c and glucose criteria identify different subjects as having type 2 diabetes in middle-aged and older populations: The KORA S4/F4 Study. Ann Med 44: 170–177.W. RathmannB. KowallT. TamayoG. GianiR. Holle2012Hemoglobin A1c and glucose criteria identify different subjects as having type 2 diabetes in middle-aged and older populations: The KORA S4/F4 Study.Ann Med44170177
- 12. Kramer CK, Araneta MR, Barrett-Connor E (2010) A1C and diabetes diagnosis: The Rancho Bernardo Study. Diabetes Care 33: 101–103.CK KramerMR AranetaE. Barrett-Connor2010A1C and diabetes diagnosis: The Rancho Bernardo Study.Diabetes Care33101103
- 13. Kim CH, Kim HK, Bae SJ, Park JY, Lee KU (2011) Discordance between fasting glucose-based and hemoglobin A1c-based diagnosis of diabetes mellitus in Koreans. Diabetes Res Clin Pract 91: e8–e10.CH KimHK KimSJ BaeJY ParkKU Lee2011Discordance between fasting glucose-based and hemoglobin A1c-based diagnosis of diabetes mellitus in Koreans.Diabetes Res Clin Pract91e8e10
- 14. Heianza Y, Hara S, Arase Y, Saito K, Tsuji H, et al. (2012) Impact of introducing HbA1c into the diagnostic criteria on prevalence and cardiovascular risk profiles of individuals with newly diagnosed diabetes in Japan: The Toranomon Hospital Health Management Center Study 2 (TOPICS 2). Diabetes Res Clin Pract 95: 283–290.Y. HeianzaS. HaraY. AraseK. SaitoH. Tsuji2012Impact of introducing HbA1c into the diagnostic criteria on prevalence and cardiovascular risk profiles of individuals with newly diagnosed diabetes in Japan: The Toranomon Hospital Health Management Center Study 2 (TOPICS 2).Diabetes Res Clin Pract95283290
- 15. Selvin E, Steffes MW, Zhu H, Matsushita K, Wagenknecht L, et al. (2010) Glycated hemoglobin, diabetes, and cardiovascular risk in nondiabetic adults. N Engl J Med 62: 800–811.E. SelvinMW SteffesH. ZhuK. MatsushitaL. Wagenknecht2010Glycated hemoglobin, diabetes, and cardiovascular risk in nondiabetic adults.N Engl J Med62800811
- 16. Cowie CC, Rust KF, Byrd-Holt DD, Gregg EW, Ford ES, et al. (2010) Prevalence of diabetes and high risk for diabetes using A1C criteria in the U.S. population in 1988–2006. Diabetes Care 33: 562–568.CC CowieKF RustDD Byrd-HoltEW GreggES Ford2010Prevalence of diabetes and high risk for diabetes using A1C criteria in the U.S. population in 1988–2006.Diabetes Care33562568
- 17. Hashimoto Y, Futamura A, Ikushima M (1995) Effect of aging on HbA1c in a working male Japanese population. Diabetes Care 18: 1337–1340.Y. HashimotoA. FutamuraM. Ikushima1995Effect of aging on HbA1c in a working male Japanese population.Diabetes Care1813371340
- 18. Yang YC, Lu FH, Wu JS, Chang CJ (1997) Age and sex effects on HbA1c. A study in a healthy Chinese population. Diabetes Care 20: 988–991.YC YangFH LuJS WuCJ Chang1997Age and sex effects on HbA1c. A study in a healthy Chinese population.Diabetes Care20988991
- 19. Yates AP, Laing I (2002) Age-related increase in haemoglobin A1c and fasting plasma glucose is accompanied by a decrease in beta cell function without change in insulin sensitivity: evidence from a cross-sectional study of hospital personnel. Diabet Med 19: 254–258.AP YatesI. Laing2002Age-related increase in haemoglobin A1c and fasting plasma glucose is accompanied by a decrease in beta cell function without change in insulin sensitivity: evidence from a cross-sectional study of hospital personnel.Diabet Med19254258
- 20. Pani LN, Korenda L, Meigs JB, Driver C, Chamany S, et al. (2008) Effect of aging on A1C levels in individuals without diabetes: evidence from the Framingham Offspring Study and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001–2004. Diabetes Care 31: 1991–1996.LN PaniL. KorendaJB MeigsC. DriverS. Chamany2008Effect of aging on A1C levels in individuals without diabetes: evidence from the Framingham Offspring Study and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001–2004.Diabetes Care3119911996
- 21. Carrera T, Bonamusa L, Almirall L, Navarro JM (1998) Should age and sex be taken into account in the determination of HbA1c reference range? Diabetes Care 21: 2193–2194.T. CarreraL. BonamusaL. AlmirallJM Navarro1998Should age and sex be taken into account in the determination of HbA1c reference range?Diabetes Care2121932194
- 22. Christensen DL, Witte DR, Kaduka L, Jorgensen ME, Borch-Johnsen K, et al. (2010) Moving to an A1C-based diagnosis of diabetes has a different impact on prevalence in different ethnic groups. Diabetes Care 33: 580–582.DL ChristensenDR WitteL. KadukaME JorgensenK. Borch-Johnsen2010Moving to an A1C-based diagnosis of diabetes has a different impact on prevalence in different ethnic groups.Diabetes Care33580582
- 23. Carson AP, Reynolds K, Fonseca VA, Muntner P (2010) Comparison of A1C and fasting glucose criteria to diagnose diabetes among U.S. adults. Diabetes Care 33: 95–97.AP CarsonK. ReynoldsVA FonsecaP. Muntner2010Comparison of A1C and fasting glucose criteria to diagnose diabetes among U.S. adults.Diabetes Care339597
- 24. Hu Y, Liu W, Chen Y, Zhang M, Wang L, et al. (2010) Combined use of fasting plasma glucose and glycated hemoglobin A1c in the screening of diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance. Acta Diabetol 47: 231–236.Y. HuW. LiuY. ChenM. ZhangL. Wang2010Combined use of fasting plasma glucose and glycated hemoglobin A1c in the screening of diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance.Acta Diabetol47231236
- 25. Inoue K, Matsumoto M, Akimoto K (2008) Fasting plasma glucose and HbA1c as risk factors for Type 2 diabetes. Diabet Med 25: 1157–1163.K. InoueM. MatsumotoK. Akimoto2008Fasting plasma glucose and HbA1c as risk factors for Type 2 diabetes.Diabet Med2511571163
- 26. Inoue K, Inoue M, Matsumoto M, Akimoto K (2011) Persistent fasting hyperglycaemia is more predictive of Type 2 diabetes than transient fasting hyperglycaemia. Diabet Med Dec 12. K. InoueM. InoueM. MatsumotoK. Akimoto2011Persistent fasting hyperglycaemia is more predictive of Type 2 diabetes than transient fasting hyperglycaemia.Diabet Med Dec 12
- 27. Lipska KJ, De Rekeneire N, Van Ness PH, Johnson KC, Kanaya A, et al. (2010) Identifying dysglycemic states in older adults: implications of the emerging use of hemoglobin A1c. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 95: 5289–5295.KJ LipskaN. De RekeneirePH Van NessKC JohnsonA. Kanaya2010Identifying dysglycemic states in older adults: implications of the emerging use of hemoglobin A1c.J Clin Endocrinol Metab9552895295
- 28. Holman RR, Paul SK, Bethel MA, Matthews DR, Neil HA (2008) 10-year follow-up of intensive glucose control in type 2 diabetes. N Engl J Med 359: 1577–1589.RR HolmanSK PaulMA BethelDR MatthewsHA Neil200810-year follow-up of intensive glucose control in type 2 diabetes.N Engl J Med35915771589
- 29. Selvin E, Coresh J, Brancati FL (2006) The burden and treatment of diabetes in elderly individuals in the U.S. Diabetes Care 29: 2415–2419.E. SelvinJ. CoreshFL Brancati2006The burden and treatment of diabetes in elderly individuals in the U.S. Diabetes Care2924152419
- 30. Motta M, Bennati E, Ferlito L, Malaguarnera M (2006) Diabetes mellitus in the elderly: diagnostic features. Arch Gerontol Geriatr 42: 101–106.M. MottaE. BennatiL. FerlitoM. Malaguarnera2006Diabetes mellitus in the elderly: diagnostic features.Arch Gerontol Geriatr42101106