, Volume 52, Issue 3, pp 385-393,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 23 Dec 2008

The effect of salsalate on insulin action and glucose tolerance in obese non-diabetic patients: results of a randomised double-blind placebo-controlled study



Low-grade inflammation may contribute to obesity-related insulin resistance and has been associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus. The present study evaluated whether treatment with salsalate, a traditional anti-inflammatory medication, would improve insulin action in obese non-diabetic individuals.


The study was a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel trial conducted at the inpatient clinical research unit of the NIDKK (Phoenix, AZ, USA). Participants were 54 adults (18 to 45 years of age) with BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2. The intervention was salsalate (3 g/day, n = 28) or identical placebo (n = 26) for 7 days. The allocation was kept concealed by giving the investigator only a number corresponding to a vial of placebo or salsalate sequentially randomised in blocks by sex. Main outcomes were changes in insulin action assessed as rate of glucose disposal (R d) by euglycaemic–hyperinsulinaemic clamp (insulin infusion rate 40 mU m−2 min−1) and glucose tolerance by 75 g OGTT.


The study was completed by 47 participants, of which 40 were analysed (salsalate n = 22, placebo n = 18). Salsalate treatment resulted in decreased fasting plasma glucose concentration (mean [SD]; 4.83 [0.28] vs 5.11 [0.33] mmol/l, p = 0.001) and glucose AUC during the OGTT (p = 0.01), and in increased R d (20 [8] vs 18 [6] µmol [kg estimated metabolic body size]−1 min−1, p = 0.002), while there was no significant change in these variables with placebo (p > 0.3 for all). The effect of salsalate on R d disappeared (p = 0.9) after normalising to increased insulin concentrations (701 [285] vs 535 [201] pmol/l, p < 0.0001) measured during the clamp. No side effects of salsalate were observed during the study.


The glucose-lowering potential of salicylates appears to be due to effects on insulin concentration rather than improved insulin action. Salicylate-based compounds may be useful for the treatment and prevention of type 2 diabetes.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT 00339833.

Funding: Intramural research programme of the NIDDK/NIH/DHHS.

J. Koska and E. Ortega contributed equally to this work.