Preventing diabetes in patients with hypertension: one more reason to block the renin-angiotensin system

Mark E Cooper, Chris Tikellis, Merlin C Thomas
Journal of Hypertension. Supplement: Official Journal of the International Society of Hypertension 2006, 24 (1): S57-63
Patients with essential hypertension are at increased risk of type 2 (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes. Recent large studies have been unable to delineate any superiority in one class of antihypertensive drug over another, independent of their effects in reducing blood pressure; however, in the longer term, antihypertensive agents that are able to reduce the risk of diabetes may have a theoretical advantage. To this end, the findings of several recent clinical trials have suggested that blockade of the renin-angiotensin system (RAS) may protect against the development of de-novo diabetes in 'at risk' patients. This beneficial effect appears to outweigh both the adverse metabolic effects of agents used in the control arm of these studies and the control of blood pressure achieved. Furthermore, recent evidence suggests that the RAS may have a direct role in the pathogenesis of diabetes. Angiotensin-mediated increases in oxidative stress, inflammation, and free fatty acids concentrations potentially contribute to beta-cell dysfunction in diabetes. In addition, activation of the RAS appears to potentiate the action of other pathogenic pathways, including glucotoxicity, lipotoxicity, and advanced glycation. In experimental models of type 2 diabetes, blockade of the RAS with angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors or angiotensin receptor antagonists also results in the improvement of islet structure and function. At least three large controlled trials are currently under way to study the utility of blockade of the RAS in the development of diabetes, including studies of combination therapy. It is hoped that these studies will demonstrate the true potential of blockade of the RAS for the prevention of diabetes.

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