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Insulin and CVD Risk – Myth Busted!

September 4, 2012 in News

Any time you are prescribed a new medicine, it is normal and healthy to be concerned about potential side effects – especially if it is something you are likely to be taking long-term.

If you’ve been prescribed insulin, or have looked into the possibility, you may have heard that one of the potential side effects dicussed in the media is an increased risk of heart attack. It is true that experts have been concerned about the long term effects insulin injections may or may not have over the long term, but there has been little conclusive evidence for these effects.

A recently completed long-term study has put some of these concerns to bed.

This study, the ORIGIN study (Outcome Reduction with an Initial Glargine Intervention), looked directly at how insulin effects the body over time. The study recruited over 12,500 people in 40 countries with an average age of 64, who were at high risk for, or in the early stages of type 2 diabetes.

Half of the participants were randomized to receive daily insulin injections, in the form of Glargine, over a period of about six years. Most of them maintained a normal fasting glucose level throughout the study while taking the insulin. The other half received their usual medical care.

The researchers found no difference at all between the two groups in terms of either the rate of cardiovascular events, or in the development of any type of cancer. This suggests that daily injections of insulin (as Glargine), used to normalize blood glucose levels, are not harmful when used over an extended period of time.

The group did confirm two previously known side effects of long term insulin use – Hypoglycemia and modest weight gain. However, the average weight gain over the course of the study was only 3.5 pounds. The risk of a severe hypoglycemic event was low as well. Participants taking insulin had only a 0.7 percent higher risk of severe hypoglycemia than those not taking insulin.

Even more good news emerged when researchers analyzed the numbers of participants who developed diabetes during the study. Participants with prediabetes at the start of the study who received daily basal insulin injections with insulin glargine had a 28 per cent lower chance of developing type 2 diabetes, even after the injections stopped.

For those taking insulin, or facing the possibility of taking insulin, this should provide some much needed peace of mind. The effects of taking insulin over many years have been researched, and the results so far suggest that these side effects are fairly minimal.

If you would like to read the original news release from ScienceDaily, you can find it here. The study was published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine as two separate articles.

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