Anti-Inflammatory Drug Improves Glycemia, Lowers Inflammation
An anti-inflammatory drug similar to aspirin may provide an inexpensive means of treating and/or reducing the risk for diabetes in obese young adults by reducing glycemia and lowering inflammation, a study being published in the February issue of Diabetes Care finds.
While researchers have long been aware that high doses of aspirin could reduce blood glucose levels, they have neither understood the mechanisms behind this effect nor been willing to tolerate the risk for stomach bleeding associated with this treatment. However, recent breakthroughs in our understanding of why weight gain is unhealthy point an incriminating finger at inflammation, and suggest that anti-inflammatory treatment strategies might have benefits.
Salsalate -- a nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory medication similar to aspirin that does not cause bleeding -- has been used for decades to reduce the pain of rheumatoid arthritis. This double-masked, placebo-controlled study found that salsalate substantially reduced glycemia as well as inflammation in obese, young adults, thereby likely reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
"People who are overweight or obese are at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes," said lead researcher Dr. Allison B. Goldfine, Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School and Research Investigator at the Joslin Diabetes Center. "We know they can reduce that risk by losing weight and increasing physical activity. But many people aren't good at maintaining those types of lifestyle changes over the long-term. Those people can be helped through pharmaceutical interventions. Our study was the first to look at the metabolic changes that occur when you give salsalate to obese people who have not yet developed diabetes. And we're really encouraged by what we found."
Specifically, the study found that people who took 4 grams per day of salsalate reduced fasting glucose levels by 13 percent and C-reactive protein concentrations (a marker of inflammation) by 34 percent. Previous studies have implicated inflammation in the development of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
The encouraging results from this small population study have prompted the National Institutes of Health to fund a larger, follow-up study that will look at safety and efficacy of targeting inflammation using salsalate in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. The study is currently ongoing at multiple sites across the country.