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Diabetes

Beta Blockers and diabetes

03/04/2008

Question:

Do beta blockers such as atenolol increase the risk of one getting diabetes? If so how long does one have to be on it to get it and is this type of diabetes reversible if one stops the medication?

Thank you.

Answer:

Knowing the mechanism of how beta blockers work, it does not make sense to me that beta blockers could predispose to the development of diabetes directly.  However, they may interfere with mechanisms that mobilize fat and in that way predispose to weight gain.  Substantial weight gain with these drugs is not  common but if it did then that could worsen diabetes control or theoretically increase the risk of developing diabetes.  In that case, it would be the reversal of the weight gain that would be the issue in the reversibility of the diabetes.  This class of drugs however has certain unique advantages in reducing the risk of recurrence of heart attacks.  Whether that benefit applies to a given person would be one of the factors to take into account in deciding whether to use this important class of anti-hypertensive agents.

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Response by:

Robert M Cohen, MD Robert M Cohen, MD
Professor of Clinical Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati