Scientists from the University of Oxford and elsewhere found that GCs may increase the risk of diabetes after just one week of treatment.
They found healthy men who were given doses of the drug had changes in markers of blood sugar metabolism linked to an increased risk of developing diabetes.
The findings highlight the potential long-term health implications for people regularly taking these drugs and medical professionals may need to consider and monitor the potential side effects, to avoid future debilitating conditions.
The research was presented at The Society for Endocrinology Annual Conference and was conducted by Dr. Riccardo Pofi et al.
Glucocorticoids (GCs) are one of the most commonly prescribed anti-inflammatories for conditions such as arthritis, asthma, allergies, and adrenal insufficiency.
GC treatment at high doses for a long duration is known to be linked to metabolic side effects that may increase the risk of diabetes and obesity.
But there are currently no studies examining the short-term effects of GCs at the more regularly prescribed, lower doses.
In the study, researchers measured markers of metabolism in healthy men given commonly prescribed doses (10 and 15mg) of GCs (prednisolone) after just one week of treatment.
Although commonly checked clinical and biochemical parameters such as fasting blood sugar levels, weight and general health were unaffected, changes in metabolic markers indicated that their blood sugar regulation was impaired.
The findings showed that even at these lower doses, glucose metabolism is impaired, suggesting an increased risk of diabetes with continued treatment.
The team says these findings not only highlight the importance of determining the best GC dose that balances effectiveness with potentially negative metabolic effects, but also that doctors should be more aware of these risks and may need to monitor them in patients both on short and longer-term therapy.
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