As anyone who has had it can attest, persistent acid reflux can be a daunting condition to manage. But new research shows a popular treatment may raise the risk of a different, more serious problem: Type 2 diabetes.
Researchers in the United Kingdom focused on a class of medications known as proton pump inhibitors that are typically taken for gastrointestinal issues such as frequent heartburn. The drugs work by slowing or stopping certain cells from pumping acid into the stomach.
Taking the drug for long periods of time, however, appears to increase the risk of diabetes. According to findings published in the journal BMJ, people who use proton pump inhibitor drugs for two years or more are most at risk.
Their conclusions are based on an analysis of long-term health information among more than 200,000 people. Every two years, the study participants updated their medical information, health history and newly diagnosed conditions.
Ultimately, more than 10,000 people were diagnosed with diabetes during a period of about 10 years.
After accounting for other influencing factors such as high cholesterol and elevated blood pressure, regular users of acid reflux medication were 24% more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those who didn’t take the drugs. Even using a proton pump inhibitor drug for a shorter time — meaning less than two years — brought a 5% increase in diabetes risk. For the study, regular use of the acid reflux medication was defined as twice or more per week.
Acid reflux can lead to other serious medical issues, so the researchers had this advice: If you’re taking a proton pump inhibitor medication, get your blood glucose levels tested regularly.