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Diabetologia. 2009 Mar;52(3):385-93. doi: 10.1007/s00125-008-1239-x. Epub 2008 Dec 23.

The effect of salsalate on insulin action and glucose tolerance in obese non-diabetic patients: results of a randomised double-blind placebo-controlled study.

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Obesity and Diabetes Clinical Research Section, NIDDK/NIH/DHHS, 4212 N 16th Street, Phoenix, AZ, USA.



Low-grade inflammation may contribute to obesity-related insulin resistance and has been associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus. The present study evaluated whether treatment with salsalate, a traditional anti-inflammatory medication, would improve insulin action in obese non-diabetic individuals.


The study was a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel trial conducted at the inpatient clinical research unit of the NIDKK (Phoenix, AZ, USA). Participants were 54 adults (18 to 45 years of age) with BMI >or= 30 kg/m(2). The intervention was salsalate (3 g/day, n = 28) or identical placebo (n = 26) for 7 days. The allocation was kept concealed by giving the investigator only a number corresponding to a vial of placebo or salsalate sequentially randomised in blocks by sex. Main outcomes were changes in insulin action assessed as rate of glucose disposal (R (d)) by euglycaemic-hyperinsulinaemic clamp (insulin infusion rate 40 mU m(-2) min(-1)) and glucose tolerance by 75 g OGTT.


The study was completed by 47 participants, of which 40 were analysed (salsalate n = 22, placebo n = 18). Salsalate treatment resulted in decreased fasting plasma glucose concentration (mean [SD]; 4.83 [0.28] vs 5.11 [0.33] mmol/l, p = 0.001) and glucose AUC during the OGTT (p = 0.01), and in increased R (d) (20 [8] vs 18 [6] micromol [kg estimated metabolic body size](-1) min(-1), p = 0.002), while there was no significant change in these variables with placebo (p > 0.3 for all). The effect of salsalate on R (d) disappeared (p = 0.9) after normalising to increased insulin concentrations (701 [285] vs 535 [201] pmol/l, p < 0.0001) measured during the clamp. No side effects of salsalate were observed during the study.


The glucose-lowering potential of salicylates appears to be due to effects on insulin concentration rather than improved insulin action. Salicylate-based compounds may be useful for the treatment and prevention of type 2 diabetes.


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