In a new study from Aalborg University Hospital, researchers suggest that the widely used osteoporosis drug alendronate reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes.
It has been known for decades that patients with diabetes have a higher risk of fractures—suggesting a link between blood sugar regulation and bone quality.
More recently, animal studies have suggested that the modification of bone cells by osteoporosis drugs affects glucose regulation.
Osteoporosis is a condition where bones become thin, weak and fragile, such that even a minor bump or accident can cause a broken bone.
The first-line treatment for osteoporosis, alendronate and other bisphosphonates help strengthen bones and reduce the risk of a fracture.
In the study, the team compared diabetes rates among those prescribed the osteoporosis drug alendronate with those not given the treatment.
Hospital records were used to identify all individuals with type 2 diabetes in Denmark between 2008 and 2018. Each diabetes patient was matched by age and sex with three healthy people from the population.
The 163,588 patients with type 2 diabetes and 490,764 participants without diabetes had an average age of 67 and 55% were male.
The team found that those who had taken alendronate were 34% less likely to have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes than those who had never taken the drug.
Factors such as smoking, alcohol use, obesity, income and marital status were included in the analysis.
Taking alendronate for at least eight years could potentially reduce the risk by more than half (53%) compared to those who have never used alendronate.
The team also found the longer a person took the drug, the lower their odds of developing the condition.
The study’s authors say that it isn’t clear how alendronate reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
One theory is that the drug reduces low-grade inflammation and oxidative stress, two processes thought to be central to the development of insulin resistance.
(Insulin resistance, in which the body’s cells don’t respond properly to insulin and can’t easily take up glucose from the blood, is a key feature of type 2 diabetes.)
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The study was presented at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes. One author of the study is Dr. Rikke Viggers.
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