A cholesterol-controlling drug could strike a blow against insulin resistance

April 9, 2003 (San Diego, CA) -- In industrialized countries insulin resistance/diabetes have become major public health concerns because of their epidemic growth and their association with major cardiovascular risk factors that are responsible for excess morbidity and mortality. In 1999, Americans had a six percent increase in new patients with Type 2 diabetes; growing obesity rates and sedentary lifestyles are also taking their toll across the Atlantic where Type 2 diabetes currently afflicts 22.5 million Europeans -- a staggering five percent of the population -- with another six million cases expected by 2025.

Researchers are looking for underlying mechanisms and new ways to combat this epidemic. Over the past decade, evidence has accumulated indicating that nitric oxide (NO) may play a key role in the control of metabolic and cardiovascular homeostasis, as evidenced by mice lacking the gene for endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) that are insulin resistant and hypertensive. An animal study now finds that stimulating NO bioavailability by lipid lowering statins may represent a new way to combat this epidemic.

Statins are a group of compounds that have been used successfully to lower cholesterol and prevent myocardial infarction. A less well known effect of statins is that they augment NO bioavailability in circulation. Abnormalities in the body's production of NO have been implicated in high blood pressure, atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries), diabetes, impotence, and stroke.

One statin is the prescription drug Simvastatin, used with diet changes (restriction of cholesterol and fat intake) to reduce the amount of cholesterol and certain fatty substances in the blood. Accumulation of cholesterol and fats along the walls of the arteries (a process known as atherosclerosis) decreases blood flow and, therefore, the oxygen supply to the heart, brain, and other parts of the body. Lowering your blood level of cholesterol and fats ma

Contact: Donna Krupa
American Physiological Society

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