Diabetes: Exciting discovery – bone medication could slash risk of high blood sugar

Type 2 diabetes can be a 'devastating diagnosis' says expert

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Alendronate – widely prescribed to treat osteoporosis – could potentially slash the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 53 percent, according to a study put forward by Dr Rikke Viggers. “Excitingly, our research suggests that alendronate, an inexpensive medicine widely used to treat osteoporosis, may also protect against type 2 diabetes. We believe that doctors should consider this when prescribing osteoporosis drugs to those with pre-diabetes or at high risk of type 2 diabetes.”

Based at Aalborg University Hospital, Denmark, Dr Viggers and his colleagues analysed hospital records to come to their conclusions.

All patients with type 2 diabetes in Denmark, between 2008 and 2018, were included in the analysis.

Each diabetes participant was matched by age and sex with three healthy people from the population.

Prescription records were then used to determine whether the patients had ever been prescribed alendronate.

What is the original purpose of alendronate?

Alendronate helps to strengthen bones to reduce the risk of fractures in people with osteoporosis.

On record, there were 163,588 patients with type 2 diabetes and 490,764 participants without diabetes included in the research study.

The participants had an average age of 67, and 55 percent of them were male.

The analysis revealed that those who had taking alendronate were 34 percent less likely to have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes than those who had never taken the medication.

Factors such as smoking, alcohol use, obesity, income, and marital status were all included in the analysis.

Furthermore, by taking alendronate for at least eight years, the risk of someone developing type 2 diabetes was slashed by 53 percent compared to those who never took the osteoporosis medication.

Deeper analysis also suggested that the longer a person took alendronate, the lower their odds were for developing type 2 diabetes.

While the exact reasoning begins this dose-dependent effect is not clear, there is an hypothesis.

It’s theorised that alendronate reduces low-grade inflammation and oxidative stress.

These are two processes thought to be central to the development of insulin resistance – a key determining factor of high blood sugar.

Dr Viggers added: “Type 2 diabetes is a serious lifelong condition that can lead to other serious health issues.”

Examples include: stroke, heart disease, blindness, and limb amputation.

“Anything that prevents, or even delays it, will also reduce a person’s risk of all these other conditions,” said Dr Viggers.

Am I at risk of type 2 diabetes?

Diabetes UK identified modifiable risk factors for developing the condition, such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Carrying extra weight
  • Smoking
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Disturbed sleep.

People aged 40 and over in England are eligible for a free NHS Health Check.

This health check-up establishes your risk of developing high blood sugar.

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