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Diabetes Study Partially Halted Due to Cardiac Risk

A new study on Type 2 diabetes was partially halted after research showed lowering blood sugar levels for some high-risk patients increased their chances of dying from a heart attack. The head of the American Diabetes Association details the surprising findings.

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  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Researchers have long believed that lowering blood sugar in diabetes patients would reduce the risk of dying from heart disease, but that theory was thrown into question yesterday when the National Institutes of Health halted part of a study of more than 10,000 patients with Type 2 diabetes.

  • The reason:

    Researchers discovered that aggressively lowering blood sugar levels actually increased their risk of death.

    Here to tell us more is Dr. John Buse, vice president of the study's steering committee and the president of medicine and science at the American Diabetes Association.

    Doctor, what question was this clinical trial designed to answer?

  • DR. JOHN BUSE, American Diabetes Association:

    Well, as you mentioned, for a long time we've thought that lowering blood sugar lowers the risk of complications. And we wanted to specifically look at whether taking blood sugar from a moderate level down to a very low level would reduce complications further than what we already knew.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    And what was the health status of the 10,000 or so people in the study?

  • DR. JOHN BUSE:

    Well, they were middle-aged and older. Most of them had had a heart attack in the past or some known vascular disease, but at minimum they had to be middle-aged and have multiple risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    And remind us again, what is diabetes? What's actually happening inside the body that's hurting you?

  • DR. JOHN BUSE:

    Diabetes is a disease that's defined by blood sugar, but 75 percent of people with diabetes eventually die of heart attack or strokes, so it's really very intimately related to cardiovascular disease.

    And the notion is that high levels of blood sugar and the related problems with cholesterol and blood pressure just lead to accelerated atherosclerosis, as well as other complications.

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