Viagra for diabetes? Not as bizzare as it sounds…

viagraA new study has shown that wonder erectile dysfunction drug Viagra may help to stave off the onset of type 2 diabetes.

The Researchers involved in the study discovered that the medication sildenafil – commonly sold under the brand name Viagra – boosts insulin sensitivity in those people with pre-diabetes, in addition to decreasing a biological marker that signals an increased risk of kidney and heart disease.

People who are in the pre-diabetes range are sometimes referred to as being ‘borderline diabetes’, which occurs when glucose levels are in the higher end of what is deemed ‘normal’, but not quite high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes – a condition that can lead to other complications such as heart disease or stroke, organ damage, blindness, limb amputation and is particularly common in men with suffering with erectile dysfunction.

Pre-diabetic people are typically found to be insulin resistant, meaning their bodies are unable to generate sufficient levels of the hormone insulin, or the hormone doesn’t function as it should in order to get rid of sugar from the blood.

Previous research has shown that if necessary intervention isn’t undertook, as many as 30% of people with pre-diabetes are probably going to go on and develop type 2 diabetes within a mere 5 years, with over 3 million Brits already having this kind of diabetes.

However, studies conducted by researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Centre in the US have discovered that sildenafil also can improve the uptake of glucose from the bloodstream by muscle. This can then can then bring down the level of circulating glucose, possibly reducing diabetes risk.

Dr Nancy Brown, of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said: “We need additional strategies to help slow the progression from pre-diabetes to diabetes.

“Weight loss and exercise regimens can be difficult to maintain, and some current medications have been limited by concerns about adverse effects.

“Sildenafil and related drugs could offer a potential avenue for addressing the rising number of diabetes diagnoses.”

Erectile dysfunction drug Viagra (sildenafil) works by inhibiting an enzyme responsible for breaking down a chemical known as cGMP, which relaxes blood vessels. Therefore, if the chemical stays in the body, the vessels will continue relaxing.

For the study – published in Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism – 51 overweight participants were involved. All had pre-diabetes and were given either Viagra or a similar-looking placebo for 3 months.

All people were tested to measure how much insulin was being produced by the body in response to sugar in the blood, and how sensitive they were to the hormone. Also, they were given the ‘hyperglycemic clamp’ test prior to, and after, the treatment with the Viagra or equivalent placebo.

Moreover, the participant’s had their urine tested for levels of albumin and creatinine – indicators of heart and kidney health. Overall, 42 of the participants managed to finish the study. Those taking the Viagra were found to be more sensitive to the effects of insulin and had lower levels of albumin in the urine compared to the people taking a placebo.

High amounts of albumin in the urine are a marker of risk for kidney and heart disease.

Dr Brown said: “Because existing drug therapies to prevent type 2 diabetes can have negative effects on the heart or be of limited use in patients with kidney disease, strategies to prevent diabetes without adversely affecting the risk of kidney and heart disease could have a large impact on public health.

“Further studies will be needed to determine whether long-term treatment with drugs like sildenafil can prevent the onset of diabetes in high-risk patients.”

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