Salsalate Improves Glycemic Control, May Treat Diabetes

Salsalate, an NSAID closely related to Aspirin, has been found to reduce fasting glucose levels and improve glucose tolerance in obese individuals according to a small pilot study published in the journal Diabetes Care in February this year. The study raises the possibility of using salsalate as an alternative treatment for type-2 diabetes and for the prevention of diabetes in high risk individuals.

The study involved 20 individuals aged under 30 who were classified as obese (BMI greater than 30). The participants were divided into two groups; the first group received 4g of salsalate each day for a month while the second group received an identical placebo.

The researchers found that the fasting glucose levels of the salsalate group decreased by 13% over the study period relative to the placebo group. Glycemic albumin (another measure of glycemic control) decreased by 17%, and glycemic control improved by 20% relative to the placebo following an oral glucose tolerance test.

Despite these improvements, insulin levels were unchanged in the salsalate group suggesting the improvements in glycemic control were due to an improvement in insulin sensitivity rather than an increase in insulin secretion.

Higher than normal fasting glucose levels is a known risk factor for type-2 diabetes suggesting that salsalate could be used both as a treatment for type-2 diabetes and a preventative measure in high risk individuals.

Salsalate belongs to a family of compounds known as the salicylates which includes acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin). Aspirin is also known to reduce blood sugar levels however the dosage required to achieve this reduction is around 4 to 7g of aspirin a day. Long term aspirin use at this level results in adverse effects such as gastrointestinal bleeding and ulcers. Salsalate, on the other hand is better tolerated by the body and has a much more favorable side-effect profile.

A three year trial, funded by the National Institutes of Health, is currently underway to determine the effectiveness of salsalate over a longer duration.