One of the most commonly used over-the-counter drugs may lead to a new treatment for type 2 diabetes, say researchers. Aspirin, used for decades to treat headaches and minor aches and pains, has been shown to reverse high blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity when taken in high doses, according a study published in the August 2001 issue of Science.
Researchers at the Joslin Diabetes Center at the University of California at San Diego now think that aspirin offers potential for developing a new way to treat type 2 diabetes.
Aspirin has never been used to treat diabetes to date because it can cause serious side effects when taken in high dosages, explained Joslin in its press release. A high-dosage of aspirin equates to six to eight grams per day. Taking one regular tablet of aspirin per day—equal to less than one gram—is recommended.
“If a drug could be developed with this capacity to lower blood sugar, but without high-dose aspirin’s side effects, we could potentially have a potent new treatment for type 2 diabetes,” says Steve Shoelson, MD, PhD, senior author of the study and a researcher at Joslin.
In the Science study, researchers used salicylates (the main ingredient in aspirin) to reverse high blood sugar, insulin and blood fat levels in obese mice. The drug blocked the action of IKKb, an enzyme that apparently inhibits the absorption of insulin. As a result, the rodents experienced improved insulin sensitivity and lowered blood sugar levels. In addition, when researchers lowered the amount of IKKb in the mice, they did not get fat or become insulin resistant.
“We strongly recommend against anybody considering treating their diabetes with aspirin,” Shoelson told the Associated Press.