March 19, 2020

Race, hormones and diabetes risk

Variation in the levels of hormones called natriuretic peptides may contribute to racial differences in susceptibility to diabetes, suggesting that this hormone system may be a target for reducing risk of the disease.

by Heather Caslin

Natriuretic peptides (NP) are hormones released from the heart that reduce blood pressure, insulin resistance and body fat accumulation. Low NP levels may be associated with increased risk for type 2 diabetes, a condition more common in African-Americans and Hispanics than in white individuals.

In a recent PLOS ONE publication, Deepak Gupta, MD, MSCI, and colleagues examined serum NP levels from 3,220 multiethnic participants in the Diabetes Prevention Program, a randomized trial that investigated approaches to type 2 diabetes prevention.

They reported lower NP levels in African-Americans and Hispanics compared with white individuals. Over a two-year follow-up, NP levels remained lower in African-Americans compared with white individuals regardless of trial intervention.

These findings suggest variation in NP levels may contribute to racial/ethnic differences in susceptibility to diabetes mellitus and other cardio-metabolic conditions. Future studies should examine whether pharmacologically augmenting the NP system reduces the risk of diabetes, particularly in high-risk groups such as African-American and Hispanic individuals.

The research was supported by National Institutes of Health grants HL109019, HL128928, HL086875, TR000445 and DK099249.