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OTC antacids may control blood sugar for diabetics, research suggests

Some heartburn medications may reduce blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, according to new research. File Photo by Billie Jean Shaw/UPI
Some heartburn medications may reduce blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, according to new research. File Photo by Billie Jean Shaw/UPI

June 25 (UPI) -- Some over-the-counter antacids can help lower blood sugar in people with diabetes, an analysis published Friday by Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found.

The drugs, known as proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs, which are used to treat heartburn symptoms, were shown to reduce fasting blood sugar levels and levels of HbA1c, a type of hemoglobin known to bind with blood sugar, in studies included in the analysis.

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"People with diabetes may see some improvement in their blood sugar control while taking PPIs," study co-author Dr. Carol Chiung-Hui Peng told UPI in an email.

"However, long-term PPI use carries some adverse effects which should be weighted between the blood sugar lowering effect," said Chiung-Hui Peng, an internal medicine specialist at the University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus in Baltimore.

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In addition, there is no indication that antacids can help prevent diabetes in people who do not currently have the disease, she said.

About 35 million people in the United States have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The condition is caused by an inability of the body to process sugars due to a lack of insulin, a hormone that breaks down sugar.

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Most people with the disease manage their symptoms through diet and lifestyle changes, as well as insulin therapy, Chiung-Hui Peng and her colleagues said.

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For this analysis, the researchers compiled data from seven studies on the use of antacids in blood-sugar control that included 342 participants and five studies assessing diabetes risk that collectively enrolled more than 244,000 people.

PPIs reduced HbA1c, a type of hemoglobin known to bind with blood sugar, by about 0.4%, on average, across the seven studies, the data showed.

HbA1c measuring below 5.7% of blood is considered normal, according to the CDC.

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PPI heartburn medications also lowered fasting blood sugar levels by an average of 10 milligrams per deciliter in seven studies reviewed by the researchers, the study authors said.

This latter figure represents about 11% of the recommended ceiling of 99 mg. per deciliter for fasting blood sugar levels for people with diabetes, according to the CDC.

Antacids are over-the-counter medications -- meaning they do not require a doctor's prescription for use -- that reduce or prevent the secretion of stomach acid, and PPIs are just one type of these products, study co-author Dr. Kashif Munir said.

Examples of PPIs include omeprazole, which is marketed as Prilosec, and esomeprazole, sold under the brand name Nexium. Stronger versions of these products are available with a prescription.

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They are generally safe to use, but may cause headache, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting in some people. More rarely, they have been linked with an increased risk for kidney disease, fractures, infections and vitamin deficiencies, according to Chiung-Hui Peng and Munir.

Although it is unclear how these drugs lower HbA1c and blood sugar, it is possible they help regulate the production of intestinal hormones that help break down sugars, the researchers said.

For example, PPIs are known to increase production of the hormone gastrin, which stimulates insulin secretion to bring down blood sugar, said Munir, an associate professor of endocrinology, diabetes and nutrition at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

"For people with diabetes, if they have severe acid reflux [and their] doctors recommend PPI treatment, they can take a PPI and benefit from its effects," Chiung-Hui Peng said.

"Though PPIs are now over-the-counter drugs, we would not encourage people to take them for a prolonged period of time without consulting their doctors," she said.

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