Nicotine Triggers Blood Sugar Boost in Smokers With Diabetes..

March 28. 2011 - Nicotine appears to be the main culprit responsible for high blood sugar levels in smokers with diabetes, according to new research presented here at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society. Those constantly high blood sugar levels, in turn, increase the risk of serious diabetes complications such as heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, and nerve damage.

"If you have diabetes and if you are a smoker, you should be concerned about this," says Xiao-Chuan Liu, PhD, lead author and researcher at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, who spoke about his findings at a news conference Sunday, March 27th.

In his laboratory study, he exposed human blood samples to nicotine. The nicotine raised the level of , a measure of blood sugar control. The higher the nicotine dose, the more the A1c level rose.The nicotine doses used in the lab study was comparable with that found in the blood of diabetic smokers and the dose would correspond to what the smoker received from smoking one or two packs daily.

They measured the effects of nicotine on the blood cells using the HbA1c test. Depending on the dose of nicotine used, the hemoglobin A1c levels were elevated between 9% to 34.5%, and the researchers observed, the higher the nicotine dose, the levels of hemoglobin A1c rose accordingly.

For years, doctors have known that smokers who have diabetes tend to have poorer blood sugar control than nonsmokers with diabetes. However, until Liu's study, he says, no one could say for sure which of the more than 4,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke was responsible.

About 26 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association, although 7 million of those are undiagnosed.

Ideally, Liu says, doctors will use the new study results to encourage patients with diabetes to stop smoking cigarettes. But he warns that smokers shouldn't use the smoking cessation products that contain nicotine, such as the nicotine patches, long-term because of their effects on blood sugar.

He couldn't pinpoint an ideal maximum time for using such products.

Makers of nicotine patches suggest that smokers use patches of progressively declining strengths as they wean themselves from cigarettes.

Galier encourages short-term use of the nicotine replacement products. "I usually recommend using each strength for two to four weeks," he tells WebMD. With a three-step program, people ideally stay on the product only for 6 to 12 weeks, he says.

According to Galier, an associate professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine, “What the study is telling us is that nicotine is most likely the reason smokers have elevated HbA1c levels.”

References: "Sugar Boost in Smokers With Diabetes By Kathleen Doheny
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MWebMD Health News, 3/28/2011)
Nicotine Causes Elevated Blood Sugar Levels In Diabetic Smokers, Health Aim By Nancy on 3/28/2011.