COLOMBUS, Ohio - Researchers have discovered a hormone link between high blood pressure and risk for diabetes, but that hormone does not affect everyone equally. Certain ethnic groups many have a greater risk.
About 30 million Americans are living with diabetes, a number that's expected to rise by 50 percent by 2030. New research is examining a specific hormone and offers insight into how this disease develops and who is most at risk.
Researchers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center say aldosterone, a hormone that's commonly associated with high blood pressure, is also strongly linked to diabetes. High levels of the hormone cause insulin resistance and also reduce the amount of insulin produced by the pancreas - the two main causes of type 2 diabetes.
The researchers followed 1,600 people for 10 years and found that study participants with the highest level of the hormone were more than twice as likely to develop diabetes than those with lower levels, but the differences were even more drastic among certain ethnicities.
Within the group with the highest aldosterone levels, African-Americans had nearly three times the risk of developing diabetes, while the risk for Chinese-Americans was more than ten-fold.
"Some of the potential explanations are differences in genes and genetics," said Dr. Joshua J. Joseph, assistant professor of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism and lead author of the study. "Another potential difference is salt sensitivity."
A clinical trial is about to get underway to explore the role of the hormone in diabetes prevention. Researchers will use medication to lower aldosterone levels in African-Americans with pre-diabetes and monitor how this affects their glucose and insulin levels.
Experts say a healthy diet and plenty of exercise can help anyone reduce their risk of diabetes, but targeting this hormone may also be a useful prevention method in the future.