Letters to the Editor

Preventing the Progression of Diabetes Mellitus


Am Fam Physician. 2005 Feb 1;71(3):425.

to the editor: I enjoyed the review article1 on impaired glucose tolerance in the April 15, 2004, issue of American Family Physician. I felt that the section summarizing lifestyle and pharmacologic interventions to prevent the development of diabetes was especially important for practicing physicians.

Of particular importance, the authors cited the TRIPOD (TRoglitazone In the Prevention Of Diabetes) study,2,3 a double-blind, placebo-controlled study that showed a 55 percent relative risk reduction in the progression to diabetes in 236 Hispanic women with a history of gestational diabetes. However, the authors did not point out the most startling aspect of this study that may have profound implications for the prevention of diabetes in patients at risk.

Although the TRIPOD study ended when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration withdrew troglitazone from the market, the investigators continued to track the progression to diabetes in all women in the study who had received placebo and those who had received troglitazone. Annual incidence rates of progression to diabetes were 21.2 percent in the group who had been taking placebo but were only 3.1 percent in the group who had been taking the thiazolidinedione agent, troglitazone (P = 0.03). This persistent protection from progression to diabetes suggested that the drug had fundamentally altered the underlying metabolic natural history that leads to diabetes rather than simply masking the deterioration by lowering glucose levels acutely.

In 2003, the journal Science published an article that helped explain the physiology behind this persistent therapeutic preventive benefit.4 It explained that peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs) were a family of nuclear receptors that were specifically targeted by thiazolidinediones (as well as statins and fibrates). When activated, PPARs mediate persistent reductions in insulin resistance and cardiovascular inflammation. The author hypothesized that PPARs may be not only the central metabolic mediator of the clinical overlap in atherosclerotic disease and insulin resistance but also the singular therapeutic target for medicines to reduce, reverse, and prevent the deleterious metabolic changes that lead to diabetes and atherosclerotic disease.

The prevention of diabetes as shown in the TRIPOD follow-up study may have helped to unearth the central mediator of insulin resistance and atherosclerotic vascular disease: PPARs. Further patient-oriented outcome research may move this discovery into the hands of physicians and provide us with the ability to prevent the development of the primary diseases that end the lives of the majority of our patients.

The opinions and assertions contained herein are the private views of the authors and are not to be construed as official or as reflecting the views of the U.S. Air Force Department or the Department of Defense at large.


show all references

1. Rao SS, Disraeli P, McGregor T. Impaired glucose tolerance and impaired fasting glucose. Am Fam Physician. 2004;69:1961-8....

2. Azen SP, Peters RK, Berkowitz K, Kjos S, Xiang A, Buchanan TA. TRIPOD (TRoglitazone In the Prevention Of Diabetes): a randomized, placebo-controlled trial of troglitazone in women with prior gestational diabetes mellitus. Control Clin Trials. 1998;19:217-31.

3. Buchanan TA, Xiang AH, Peters RK, Kjos SL, Marroquin A, Goico J, et al. Preservation of pancreatic beta-cell function and prevention of type 2 diabetes by pharmacological treatment of insulin resistance in high-risk Hispanic women. Diabetes. 2002;51:2796-803.

4. Plutzky J. Medicine. PPARs as therapeutic targets: reverse cardiology?. Science. 2003;302:406-7.

Send letters to afplet@aafp.org, or 11400 Tomahawk Creek Pkwy., Leawood, KS 66211-2680. Include your complete address, e-mail address, and telephone number. Letters should be fewer than 400 words and limited to six references, one table or figure, and three authors.

Letters submitted for publication in AFP must not be submitted to any other publication. Possible conflicts of interest must be disclosed at time of submission. Submission of a letter will be construed as granting the AAFP permission to publish the letter in any of its publications in any form. The editors may edit letters to meet style and space requirements.

This series is coordinated by Kenny Lin, MD, MPH, Associate Deputy Editor for AFP Online.



Copyright © 2005 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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