Non-Cholesterol Sterol Levels Predict Hyperglycemia and Conversion to Type 2 Diabetes in Finnish Men

We investigated the levels of non-cholesterol sterols as predictors for the development of hyperglycemia (an increase in the glucose area under the curve in an oral glucose tolerance test) and incident type 2 diabetes in a 5-year follow-up study of a population-based cohort of Finnish men (METSIM Study, N = 1,050) having non-cholesterol sterols measured at baseline. Additionally we determined the association of 538,265 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) with non-cholesterol sterol levels in a cross-sectional cohort of non-diabetic offspring of type 2 diabetes (the Kuopio cohort of the EUGENE2 Study, N = 273). We found that in a cross-sectional METSIM Study the levels of sterols indicating cholesterol absorption were reduced as a function of increasing fasting glucose levels, whereas the levels of sterols indicating cholesterol synthesis were increased as a function of increasing 2-hour glucose levels. A cholesterol synthesis marker desmosterol significantly predicted an increase, and two absorption markers (campesterol and avenasterol) a decrease in the risk of hyperglycemia and incident type 2 diabetes in a 5-year follow-up of the METSIM cohort, mainly attributable to insulin sensitivity. A SNP of ABCG8 was associated with fasting plasma glucose levels in a cross-sectional study but did not predict hyperglycemia or incident type 2 diabetes. In conclusion, the levels of some, but not all non-cholesterol sterols are markers of the worsening of hyperglycemia and type 2 diabetes.