Smoking Complicates Diabetes

Nicotine leads to higher blood sugar levels with diabetics

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Most smokers with diabetes know they have high blood sugar levels. Until recently, researchers did not know which cigarette ingredient was causing blood sugar to rise. A new study shows that nicotine may be the cause.

Xiao-Chuan Liu, Ph.D., and colleagues had a hunch that nicotine was responsible for higher blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes. Looking at human blood samples, they confirmed their hunch. The amount of nicotine found in the blood of smokers can cause as much as a 34 percent increase in levels of HbA1c - a test that shows the average amount of sugar in a patient's blood during the previous few weeks.

dailyRx Insight: Don't smoke if you have diabetes.

This finding also affects people who are using stop-smoking products such as nicotine patches or electronic cigarettes. These products could still raise blood sugar levels as they use nicotine. However, according to Dr. Liu, stop-smoking products are often used for short periods of time, and the benefits of quitting most likely outweigh the temporary rise in blood sugar.

Diabetics with high blood sugar face a greater risk for diabetes complications such as heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, and nerve damage. Past studies have shown that smoking raises blood sugar levels and the risk of complications in people with diabetes. Now researchers know the chemical responsible for these complications.

Nearly 26 million individuals are affected by diabetes in the United States each year, with about seven million people going undiagnosed. Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disease with no cure in which a person has high blood sugar because the body does not produce enough insulin (Type 1) or because cells do not respond to the insulin that is produced (Type 2). There are three main types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2 and Gestational. Several groups of oral drugs, are effective for Type 2, such as Glucophage, Glucotrol, and Prandin, among many others. The therapeutic combination in Type 2 may eventually include injected insulin as symptoms worsen. Along with the presence of physical symptoms, a common blood test known as the A1c can test for the disease.

The study's results were presented at the 241st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.

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Review Date: 
March 28, 2011
Last Updated:
March 28, 2011