Reporter: Shannon Samson
Web Producer: Amber Griswold
There is another good reason to have aspirin in your medicine cabinet. New research shows women who take one aspirin a day, cut their risk of heart attacks and stroke by up to 30 percent.
Another study shows promise for aspirin-like drugs to treat diabetes, something that's never been considered before.
To treat diabetes, doctors have always thought about medicine that stimulates the pancreas to produce more insulin or medicine that makes the liver and muscle cells sensitive to insulin. But they've never considered trying anti-inflammatory drugs, until now.
Saint Mary's has its own Joslin Diabetes Center, a branch of the world renowned institute in Boston, where researchers have recently pinpointed a trigger for Type II Diabetes.
They've long known obesity is a cause, but they weren't sure why. It turns out, when the body gets fat, so does the liver, faster than any other organ.
That extra fat turns on a master switch in the liver that makes it produce a protein called NF-KB which causes inflammation, disrupting the body's ability to process insulin.
Zouhair Bibi, M.D., endocrinologist, explained, "It is very important that first we know where what they call the master switch is in the liver. So, it's the production of this protein called NF-KB and how we can turn off the switch because by turning off the switch you can stop the progression of the disease. You can stop the disease basically."
In fact, researchers were able to stop the disease in mice using anti-inflammatory drugs called salicylates. Aspirin is the best known of this class of drugs. One problem though is the dosage level doesn't transfer over to humans very well.
Dr. Bibi said, "You'd have to take a lot of pills, maybe 15 to 20 pills to do that but we can not do that in humans so far because of gastrointestinal bleeding and a lot of side effects. So right now, this is a very hopeful finding."
That's what researchers plan to explore in human trials. Until then, the best way to stave off diabetes is still losing weight through good old fashioned diet and exercise.
Because high level doses of aspirin can lead to bleeding complications, Joslin researchers are performing clinical trials on humans using another drug in this class. It's called Sal-Sa-Late and has been shown to be safe for arthritis patients.
So far, more than twenty patients have taken part in Joslin's clinical trials and have shown improvement in insulin sensitivity.
For more information, go to http://www.joslin.org/main.shtml.