Researchers at The Ohio State University College of Medicine and the Wexner Medical Center have discovered high levels of the hormone aldosterone, already associated with high blood pressure, more than double the chances of a person getting type 2 diabetes. For African-Americans, the risk is almost three-fold. Chinese-Americans are 10 times more likely to develop diabetes.
Lead investigator and endocrinologist Joshua J. Joseph, M.D., followed 1,600 people across diverse populations for 10 years. Results of his study are published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
He discovered aldosterone, produced by the adrenal gland, not only increases hypertension but increases insulin resistance in muscle and impairs insulin secretion from the pancreas.
"In the future, I believe that this research with lowering aldosterone levels will help to prevent diabetes," says Joseph.
In the next study set to start this fall, he says, "We plan to have African-Americans with pre-diabetes. We will use medications to lower their aldosterone levels and then look at the impact on glucose and insulin in those individuals."
Why are African-Americans and Chinese-Americans at much greater risk? Joseph says it could have to do with genetics and salt sensitivity.
Experts expect type 2 diabetes to increase 50 percent by 2030.
"We know there's a relationship between aldosterone and type 2 diabetes. Now we need to determine thresholds that will guide clinical care and the best medication for treatment," Joseph says.
The most recent study fulfills a promise to his father who had high blood pressure and high levels of aldosterone. His father thought it might be linked to his diabetes.