By: Radha McLean
The insulin-resistance drug metformin (Glucophage) has been shown to improve more than just insulin sensitivity in the body.
According to a study published in the April issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Glucophage also improved the function of the cells that line arteries, a discovery that may lead to better understanding and treating of heart disease in type 2s.
Kieren J. Mather, MD, of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism at Indiana University in Indianapolis, and colleagues at the University of Calgary and the University of Toronto in Canada, conducted a study of 44 people with type 2 diabetes and without a history of heart problems who were on a diet-only treatment for the disease. The patients were given either 500 mg of Glucophage or a placebo twice a day for 12 weeks. Before and after the trial, the function of the patients’ arteries was evaluated with different stimulant medications to test, specifically, whether the function of the lining cells (endothelium) could be improved. Researchers did this by testing blood-flow response in the patients’ forearms. They also measured the patients’ levels of insulin resistance before and after the study.
According to researchers, those who took Glucophage showed better blood-flow response when their cells lining arteries were stimulated. Also, insulin resistance and fatty acids improved significantly in the patients who took Glucophage.
Based on these results, researchers determined that there is a relationship between insulin resistance and endothelial function. They point out what this correlation means for the treatment of people with diabetes: that insulin resistance “plays a central role” in developing a dysfunction of artery lining in type 2s—which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
This insight “has important implications for the investigation and treatment of vascular [heart] disease in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus,” they write.