(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – About 30 million Americans live with diabetes, and the numbers continue to grow. However, researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center believe that targeting a certain hormone may be key in preventing the disease. Aldosterone is a hormone produced by the adrenal gland that is commonly associated with high blood pressure, but a new study finds that there is also a strong link to Type 2 diabetes.

“Aldosterone increases insulin resistance and also impairs insulin secretion from the pancreas, which are the two main causes of Type 2 diabetes,” said Dr. Joshua J. Joseph, assistant professor of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism and lead author of the study.

The researchers followed 1,600 people for 10 years and found that the one-third of participants with the highest levels of the hormone were more than twice as likely to develop diabetes as the third who had the lowest levels. There were also major disparities among different ethnic groups. African-Americans in the top one-third had nearly three times the risk of developing the disease, while the risk for Chinese-Americans was more than 10 fold.

“We are now examining why aldosterone affects certain ethnic groups differently. It could be due to genetics or possibly differences in salt sensitivity,” Joseph said. “We will further examine the role of this hormone in diabetes prevention in a new clinical trial.”

The trial will use medication to lower aldosterone levels in African-Americans with pre-diabetes. Researchers will monitor how this impacts their glucose and insulin levels.

“When combined with healthy lifestyle changes to diet and exercise, I believe that lowering aldosterone levels may help individuals avoid diabetes and the many health issues that come with it,” Joseph said.