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Type 4 Diabetes: your weight is not the main risk for getting this type of diabetes - MyHealth


Type 4 Diabetes: your weight is not the main risk for getting this type of diabetes


Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Ragiinii Sharma

Written By Prekshi Garg
on Sep 15, 2022

Last Edit Made By Prekshi Garg
on Mar 17, 2024

Type 4 Diabetes

Type-4 diabetes? Before you think we misspelled it or there was a typing error, let us clarify some things first. Type-4 diabetes is an underdiagnosed but still unofficial classification of diabetes that isn’t influenced by the “weight or body mass” of an individual.

This means that the condition is prevalent in individuals who aren’t overweight or obese. It is typically diagnosed in older adults and is often a consequence of multiple factors, including environmental factors, lifestyle, diet, etc.

Unlike type-1 and type-2 diabetes, which stem from an overactive immune system and excess weight, respectively, type-4 diabetes is a consequence of aging. This article will explore all you need to know about type-4 diabetes, its causes, symptoms, and possible treatment options.

What is Type-4 Diabetes?

When we think of diabetes, we often think of it being an autoimmune response or sometimes due to poor lifestyle factors.

But, how does a person with no implications of both have diabetes?

A 2015 study was the one that first found associations between aging and diabetes, which was later classified as Type-4 diabetes. It is believed that the primary contributor to this possibly underdiagnosed condition is insulin resistance in the body.

It is predominant in older age, so younger people aren’t typically diagnosed with this type of diabetes.

What are the Causes of Type-4 Diabetes?

As we mentioned earlier, type-4 diabetes is still an unofficial classification of diabetes, so there is not much information surrounding it.

The research behind this condition has just kickstarted with the first pre-clinical trial in 2015 with mice. Although researchers believe that insulin resistance is the primary contributing factor to the onset of this condition, there needs to be more conclusive research and clinical trials must be conducted to understand and pinpoint the actual causes of type-4 diabetes.

According to the 2015 study, researchers also found that the excess production and availability of regulatory T cells (immune cells) in the body is a potential reason behind the onset of Type-4 diabetes. The excess T-cells are associated with aging.

However, since this was an answer from a pre-clinical trial (from mice), more human trials are necessary before reaching a conclusion.

What are the Symptoms of Type-4 Diabetes?

Diabetes, irrespective of its type, has a very similar pattern of symptoms. So, a person diagnosed with type-4 diabetes will show the same symptoms as someone diagnosed with type-2 diabetes (albeit with a few exceptions).

Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Increased thirst
  • Blurry vision
  • Increased hunger
  • Poor healing (especially of sores)
  • Frequent urination
  • Sudden weight loss

Remember that experiencing one or multiple of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean that you have type-4 diabetes or any other type of diabetes. These symptoms are also associated with other conditions that could be undiagnosed in you.

It is always best to consult a board-certified physician to understand what’s wrong and get the relevant tests before reaching a diagnosis and getting the treatment needed for it.

How to Treat Type-4 Diabetes?

Since type-4 diabetes is still in its primitive stages of research and trials, it isn’t surprising that the condition is very underdiagnosed. It isn’t an official diagnosis that most doctors will give when you get an appointment.

At this stage, with so little understanding of the condition, researchers believe that the first line of treatment would be stabilizing the elevated blood glucose levels.

However, reports from the Salk Center FAQ suggest that the researchers are currently looking into long-term treatment options for the condition.

Since it's associated with excess T-cell production in the body, the primary focus is to develop an “antibody medication” that will regulate and control T-cell production.

Also, unlike type-2 diabetes, where doctors suggest eating healthy and trying ways to lose weight, the same isn’t applicable with type-4 diabetes since weight-related issues aren’t bothersome. There is no evidence that further weight loss has a positive influence on reducing the excess regulatory T-cells in the body.

Is there a way to Prevent Type-4 diabetes?

Understanding surrounding type-4 diabetes is very limited at this point, which means stating an effective preventive measure will be futile.

Since the condition is directly related to the aging process is an individual, it is hard to say what could potentially prevent the condition from progressing to its advanced stages.

More studies and research are needed to draw a conclusion about the condition and what can potentially help prevent it for good.

Early tests and diagnosis have the potential to prevent the rapid progression of the disease. Proper testing can also distinguish any other underlying trigger that could be contributing to the symptoms in the individual.

What are some other Unofficial Classifications of Diabetes?

Type-4 diabetes isn’t the only unofficial type of diabetes known to man right now. There are a few other conditions worth looking into.

We are familiar with type-1, type-2, and gestational diabetes. But, 6 other types of diabetes are still in their primitive stages of research but are quite prevalent in affecting patients globally.

They include:

Mature onset diabetes of the young (MODY) – It is a direct consequence of a genetic change in the patient and typically runs in the family. Also, the diagnosis for this happens before the patient turns 25.

Neonatal diabetes – Unlike type-1 diabetes, an autoimmune disorder commonly diagnosed in younger infants and children, neonatal diabetes is a direct consequence of a genetic change. It is generally diagnosed in infants under 6 months. Also, the condition is due to inhibited insulin production in the infant.

Type 3c diabetes – This type of diabetes often happens due to other chronic ailments like pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, cystic fibrosis, etc.

Steroid-induced diabetes – This happens when the patient takes steroids to manage other conditions in the body.  The steroids affect hormonal balance in the body, including that of insulin.

Monogenic diabetes – This is a category that discusses any type of diabetes that’s caused by genetic changes in the body.

Latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA) – Commonly referred to as type 1.5 diabetes, the condition is derived from type-1 diabetes but with a very slow progression. The condition is also misdiagnosed as type-2 diabetes in some cases.

What is Type-3 Diabetes?

Although not an official diagnosis, Type-3 diagnosis refers to the condition that explains the theory that insulin resistance directly influences the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

It stems from 2018 research, which showed that people with type-2 diabetes have an affinity for developing Alzheimer’s as they age. More research needs to be done to reach a conclusion.


Is weight a risk factor for diabetes?

Weight is a triggering factor for type-2 diabetes. So, if you are overweight or obese, there is a heightened risk of developing type-2 diabetes.

What BMI is at risk for diabetes?

Individuals with BMI ≥30 kg/m2 are at more risk of developing diabetes early on or even later in life.

Can you get diabetes at a normal weight?

Diabetes at a normal weight is possible, and not just type-4 diabetes but almost every type of diabetes can happen in people with a normal weight. However, if left undiagnosed or untreated, it can lead to long-term complications.


Type-4 diabetes is still in its primitive stages of research and diagnosis. If you are experiencing any of the “odd” symptoms of diabetes, it is advised to get thorough testing. 

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