Taking 100mg of aspirin every day could lower the risk of people aged 65 and over developing type 2 diabetes, researchers have suggested.
Scientists – led by Professor Sophia Zoungas of Monash University’s School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine in Melbourne – said their findings warrant further exploration but do not change the current clinical guidelines on older people taking aspirin.
Some 16,209 people were included in the study; 8,086 were given aspirin while 8,123 were given a placebo.
All were aged 65 or over and did not suffer from cardiovascular disease, physical disabilities or dementia.
Over a median follow-up of 4.7 years, researchers found the group given aspirin had a 15% reduction in type 2 diabetes and a slower rate of increase in fasting plasma glucose (FPG) levels.
The authors said: “Given the increasing prevalence of type 2 diabetes among older adults, the potential for anti-inflammatory agents like aspirin to prevent type 2 diabetes or improve glucose levels needs further study.”
The findings will be presented to delegates at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) in Hamburg in October.
However, the study was a follow-up of the ASPREE trial, which was published in 2018. It found taking aspirin led to a 38% increased risk of major haemorrhage in older adults without any reduction in incidence of cardiovascular disease.
Prof Zoungas said her team’s research does “not change clinical advice” around older people taking aspirin.
According to the NHS, a low-dose of aspirin – 75mg – each day can help to prevent heart attacks and strokes in people who are at high risk of them, but should only be taken if your doctor recommends it.
Prof Zoungas added: “The earlier published trial findings from ASPREE in 2018 showed aspirin did not prolong healthy independent living, but was associated with a significantly increased risk of bleeding, primarily in the gastrointestinal tract.
“Major prescribing guidelines now recommend older adults take daily aspirin only when there is a medical reason to do so, such as after a heart attack.
“Although these new findings are of interest, they do not change the clinical advice about aspirin use in older people at this time.”
In June, a paper published in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology journal claimed 1.3 billion people could be living with diabetes by 2050 – more than double the 529 million cases in 2021.
Academics described the condition as one of the “biggest public health threats of our time”.
However, Dr Faye Riley, research communications manager at Diabetes UK, said the link between aspirin and diabetes prevention “remains unclear”.
She added: “With more than 2.4 million people in the UK at high risk of type 2 diabetes, there’s an urgent need to find new and better ways to help people avoid the condition.
“While this research found that taking a daily low-dose aspirin was linked to a small decrease in risk of type 2 diabetes in older people, whether aspirin has a role to play in type 2 prevention remains unclear, and this approach may have unwanted side effects.
“We know the use of daily aspirin increases risk of potentially serious bleeding in people with diabetes and others, so we advise only taking daily low-dose aspirin if your doctor recommends it and they will discuss exactly what dose is right for you.
“We do know the best ways to reduce your risk of type 2 are getting support to lose weight if you need to, eating a healthy, balanced diet and doing more physical activity. “