Popular Heartburn Drugs May Mess with Blood Sugar

Pregnant woman taking pill against heartburnManaging blood sugar seems easy from a theoretical standpoint: eating less of it and things should level out.

But it’s not that easy. New research suggests another possible risk factor for high blood sugar and type-2 diabetes: popular antacids.


In a large-scale review featuring over 200,000 participants, researchers found that regular use of proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) was associated with a 24% risk increase for type-2 diabetes. They also noticed a correlation between risk and how long people used the drugs.

PPIs, used to treat heartburn or acid reflux, are some of the world’s most popular medications. They are available by both prescription and over-the-counter. Popular types include:

  • Aciphex
  • Nexium
  • Prilosec
  • Prevacid
  • Protonix

The results were published in the journal Gut.

Interestingly, diabetes risk associated with PPI risk was highest in people with normal blood pressure and lower weight. Generally, higher weight is a risk factor for type-2 diabetes.

The link between PPIs, blood sugar, and diabetes risk may have something to do with the effect of gut bacteria. More work on this is required.

At first glance, the link between acid reflux medication and diabetes risk seems elementary. If someone’s regularly eating foods that cause acid reflux, it’s likely those foods are also contributing to diabetes.


Finding the elevated link in people that had low blood pressure and weight shows there is more than meets the eye. In fact, after controlling for blood pressure, activity, and weight, they still found a higher diabetes risk in people who used PPIs.

They did find, however, that diabetes risk dropped when people stopped taking them. The risk continued to fall the longer people stayed off them, as well.

Your best defense at controlling acid reflux, thus lessening the risk for diabetes, is avoiding foods that trigger a reaction. Further, some natural remedies that may help include:

  • Chamomile
  • Licorice
  • Slippery elm
  • Eating smaller meals
  • Chewing gum

Author Bio

Mohan Garikiparithi got his degree in medicine from Osmania University (University of Health Sciences). He practiced clinical medicine for over a decade before he shifted his focus to the field of health communications. During his active practice he served as the head of the Dept. of Microbiology in a diagnostic centre in India. On a three-year communications program in Germany, Mohan developed a keen interest in German Medicine (Homoeopathy), and other alternative systems of medicine. He now advocates treating different medical conditions without the use of traditional drugs. An ardent squash player, Mohan believes in the importance of fitness and wellness.