A simple blood test could identify people who are at risk of type 2 diabetes up to 10 years before the first symptoms appear, a new study has indicated.
Scientists in the US were able to correctly spot patients who went on to develop diabetes by checking the levels of five amino acids in their blood.
They hope that a similar test could ultimately be used to screen for type 2 diabetes, and help prevent related complications such as blindness through early diagnosis.
The test used by the Harvard team looked for levels of small molecules in the blood. Among the 2,422 volunteers tested, 201 went on to develop diabetes.
The results of the study have been published in the Nature Medicine journal.
Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include being overweight, leading a sedentary lifestyle and eating an unhealthy diet.
Doctors have little they can use to identify at-risk individuals, aside from monitoring weight and blood sugar levels.
Dr Victoria King, Head of Research at Diabetes UK, said: "Early diagnosis and effective management of type 2 diabetes are crucial in reducing the risk of developing diabetes complications, such as heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and amputation.
"Therefore, finding ways to identify those who are at risk of developing the condition are important.
"This research, in future, could lead to ways to help us identify those at risk as well as giving us new insights into how and why type 2 diabetes develops."