Popular Heartburn Remedies May Increase Risk of Type 2 Diabetes


In the same week news reports revealed that the diabetes medication, Metformin, may cause the same cancer-causing contaminant found in Zantac, it was also discovered that other common heartburn medicines are linked to a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 

In an observational study of over 200,000 people in the U.S., researchers associated the regular use of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) to a 24% higher risk of the disease marked by abnormally high blood sugar levels. 

Moreover, the longer the use of such drugs, which go by brand names including Nexium, Prilosec and Prevacid, the more likely the participants were to have the chronic disease. 

The findings appear online in the Sept. 28 edition of the journal, Gut, reports US News & World Report online

Based on the findings, the study’s researchers recommend that anybody who has used PPIs long-term should carefully monitor their blood sugar levels. In fact, the study suggests that frequently using PPI drugs for two years or more was associated with a 26% higher risk of diabetes.

Although Zantac isn’t a PPI—it’s another type of stomach-acid blocker called an H2-receptor-blocker—it was one of the leading heartburn, acid reflux and GERD remedies, with 15 million Americans taking it on a regular basis before the drug was recalled by the FDA in April because of NDMA contamination, which can cause cancer and other side effects. The researchers also discovered an association between H2 use and diabetes; those who took Zantac, Tagamet and Pepcid had a 14% higher risk of developing it. 

Researchers aren’t quite sure how PPIs and H2 blockers may contribute to diabetes. One theory is that the drugs alter the gut’s microbiome

Observational studies are not considered gold-standard research, however, it seems reasonable based on these findings that physicians should emphasize blood glucose monitoring for their patients taking heartburn drugs. It also falls upon consumers of over-the-counter heartburn pills to monitor their blood sugar levels. 

Heartburn drugs, once hailed as miracles, are now known to have many side effects. It doesn’t seem dubious that by altering the intestinal bacteria, heartburn medication could affect change in how glucose is metabolized, although more research is needed to draw any conclusions. 

Researchers from Sun Yat-Sen University, in Guangdong, China, led the study.

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