Viagra May Improve More Than Your Sex Life, Study Finds

The little blue pill might be a multitasker.

It's been the butt of many, many jokes since it was introduced in 1998, but Viagra (sildenafil) has helped countless men manage what can be a devastating medical condition. And it looks like the little blue pill might be useful in preventing another common condition: diabetes. 

In a small November 2015 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, researchers found that Viagra increased insulin sensitivity in overweight patients with prediabetes. One of the main causes of type 2 diabetes is insulin resistance, which is when the body cannot produce enough insulin or doesn't use insulin efficiently to clear sugar from the bloodstream. So improving insulin sensitivity is an important part of preventing diabetes, especially in people who are at high risk.

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In the preliminary study, 42 overweight men and women who had prediabetes were treated either with Viagra or a placebo for three months. The researchers found that the Viagra patients were not only more sensitive to the effects of insulin, but also had lower levels of albumin — a protein that, when levels are elevated, can be a sign of higher kidney and heart disease risk — than the patients who received the placebo. 

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Basically Viagra might be a two-for-one: a safer way to prevent diabetes that also helps maintain a healthy sex life. But don't ask your doctors about the little blue pill for diabetes just yet. 

Researchers have a lot more to learn and further studies are needed to determine whether Viagra is another reliable tool for preventing the onset of diabetes in high-risk patients, said Nancy J. Brown, MD, study co-author and chair holder and professor of medicine and pharmacology at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, in a press release. But she's still optimistic.

"Weight loss and exercise regimens can be difficult to maintain, and some current medications have been limited by concerns about adverse effects," she said. "[Viagra] and related drugs could offer a potential avenue for addressing the rising number of diabetes diagnoses."

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