Previous conventional models for the prediction of diabetes could be updated by incorporating the increasing amount of health data available and new risk prediction methodology.
We aimed to develop a substantially improved diabetes risk prediction model using sophisticated machine-learning algorithms based on a large retrospective population cohort of over 230,000 people who were enrolled in the study during 2006-2017.
We collected demographic, medical, behavioral, and incidence data for type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) in over 236,684 diabetes-free participants recruited from the 45 and Up Study. We predicted and compared the risk of diabetes onset in these participants at 3, 5, 7, and 10 years based on three machine-learning approaches and the conventional regression model.
Overall, 6.05% (14,313/236,684) of the participants developed T2DM during an average 8.8-year follow-up period. The 10-year diabetes incidence in men was 8.30% (8.08%-8.49%), which was significantly higher (odds ratio 1.37, 95% CI 1.32-1.41) than that in women at 6.20% (6.00%-6.40%). The incidence of T2DM was doubled in individuals with obesity (men: 17.78% [17.05%-18.43%]; women: 14.59% [13.99%-15.17%]) compared with that of nonobese individuals. The gradient boosting machine model showed the best performance among the four models (area under the curve of 79% in 3-year prediction and 75% in 10-year prediction). All machine-learning models predicted BMI as the most significant factor contributing to diabetes onset, which explained 12%-50% of the variance in the prediction of diabetes. The model predicted that if BMI in obese and overweight participants could be hypothetically reduced to a healthy range, the 10-year probability of diabetes onset would be significantly reduced from 8.3% to 2.8% (P<.001).
A one-time self-reported survey can accurately predict the risk of diabetes using a machine-learning approach. Achieving a healthy BMI can significantly reduce the risk of developing T2DM.

©Lei Zhang, Xianwen Shang, Subhashaan Sreedharan, Xixi Yan, Jianbin Liu, Stuart Keel, Jinrong Wu, Wei Peng, Mingguang He. Originally published in JMIR Medical Informatics (, 28.07.2020.