Aim: The present study was carried out to examine whether the insulin secretory mechanism deteriorates during the aging process using the new intact proinsulin assay system in non-diabetic and diabetic individuals. Methods: A total of 172 participants were separated into four groups according to their age (<64 years and >65 years) and an association of type 2 diabetes; that is, 46 older diabetics (mean age 74.5 ± 6.2 years, glycated hemoglobin [National Glycohemoglobin Standardization Program] 7.5 ± 1.3%), 27 older non-diabetics (mean age 76.9 ± 7.5 years), 48 middle-aged diabetics (mean age 50.8 ± 10.4, glycated hemoglobin 7.8 ± 1.5%) and 51 middle aged non-diabetics (mean age 46.6 ± 13.0 years) participants were enrolled. Results: The proinsulin/insulin (PI/I) ratio of the diabetic group was higher than that of the non-diabetic group in the older group (0.19 ± 0.12 vs 0.11 ± 0.06, P = 0.002). In the middle-aged groups, the PI/I ratio of the diabetic group was higher than that of the non-diabetic group (0.16 ± 0.15 vs 0.09 ± 0.09, P = 0.003). Simple regression analysis showed that male sex (95% CI 0.02–0.01, P = 0.004), age (95% CI 0.00–0.002, P = 0.03), lower body mass index (95% CI −0.06 to 0.00, P = 0.02) and the presence of diabetes mellitus (95% CI 0.04–0.012, P < 0.0001) were significantly associated with the increase in the PI/I ratio. Multivariate regression analysis showed that male sex and age were the independent factors determining the increase in the PI/I ratio in the non-diabetic group. After adjusted for body mass index, the PI/I ratio correlated significantly with age only in the non-diabetic group (r = 0.5, P = 0.004). Conclusions: The proinsulin processing system might deteriorate not only in diabetics, but also in non-diabetic Japanese individuals with age. Also, sex-related hormones can be protective for the proinsulin processing system. Geriatr Gerontol Int 2018; 18: 1046–1050.
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