What is prediabetes?

Prediabetes is a condition where blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.

Specifically, prediabetes is defined by the results of any of the following tests:

If any of these tests establishes that the body is not regulating energy metabolism normally, prediabetes is present. The cause may be:

  • A lack of insulin
  • An inability of insulin to act properly
  • A combination of the two

The role of insulin in prediabetes

A normal metabolism stores nutrients to deliver to the body’s organs when they're needed. The hormone insulin is central to this process.

Produced by beta cells in the pancreas, insulin is important in regulating glucose and fat metabolism. Insulin levels are naturally low during fasting but rise after meals to help disperse glucose into the muscles and other organs.

But when someone gains too much weight, this process is disrupted:

  • Fat accumulates in cells of the body
  • Insulin does not act properly
  • Even larger quantities of insulin are required to keep blood glucose normal
  • Eventually glucose levels rise, either during fasting or in response to a meal
  • The result is prediabetes and, if the cycle becomes more pronounced, diabetes

Why is prediabetes such an important diagnosis?

People with prediabetes have metabolic abnormalities that place them at high risk for diabetes. Therefore, diagnosing prediabetes is a necessary first step to taking preventive action, notably:

  • Exercise
  • Weight reduction
  • Healthy eating

Unlike type 2 diabetes, prediabetes can be cured. It’s essential, therefore, that patients take steps to control and potentially reverse their prediabetes before it progresses to type 2 diabetes.

An exceptionally widespread problem

Prediabetes is far more common than most people realize:

  • Roughly 86 million Americans have prediabetes1
  • This includes about 35% of people over 19 and half those over 641
  • An estimated 90% of them are unaware of their condition1

This explosion of prediabetes is due mainly to an epidemic of obesity in the U.S. Nearly one-third of adults are now considered obese.2 Many Americans also live a sedentary lifestyle, compounding the problem further.

Learn more about prediabetes and testing options from Quest.

Contact us by phone at 1.866.MYQUEST (1.866.697.8378)

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Learn more about type 2 diabetes


1.American Diabetes Association. diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics/. Last reviewed May 18, 2015. Last accessed June 26, 2016.

2.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html. Last reviewed Sept. 11, 2015. Last accessed June 26, 2016.