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Ohio State Study Connects High Blood Pressure To Type 2 Diabetes

Ohio State Wexner Medical Center
Ohio State doctor Joshua Joseph (right) examines a patient with diabetes.

An Ohio State doctor has shown a hormone called aldosterone can lead to Type 2 diabetes. The effect is even more pronounced for African- and Chinese-Americans.

Scientists have long known the hormone, which is produced by the adrenal gland, increases blood pressure and reduces insulin production, both of which can lead to diabetes. But Wexner Medical Center endocrinologist Joshua Joseph wanted to determine how closely it's linked to the disease.

“It was associated with higher risk of developing diabetes over time,” Joseph says, “with the greatest association among both African Americans and Chinese Americans.”

For African-Americans with high aldosterone levels, the risk was three times higher, and for Chinese-Americans, it was 10 times higher. Joseph says the reasons for those discrepancies need further study.

"We speculate that there may be potential differences in genetics,” he says. “There could be potential differences in the way that aldosterone works in various race, ethnic groups."

Joseph’s findings are based on 10 years’ worth of data from a diverse population of 1,600 people. Joseph’s work is part of the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, and his study was published online this week by the Journal of the American Heart Association.

His next effort is a clinical trial aimed at keeping aldosterone in check in hopes of reducing new cases of diabetes. 

"So what we're trying to do in that study is lower aldosterone levels and then examine to see if their insulin resistance decreases, and if their beta cell function increases, these would be the two primary pathways of lowering the risk of developing diabetes,” Joseph says.