You might remember the old saying “Take two aspirin and call me in the morning,” which makes it sound like aspirin can take care of any number of unmentioned symptoms and ailments. That concept may not be far from the truth, as researchers continue to discover potential new uses for this commonly used over-the-counter medication.
Taking aspirin for pain relief, such as headache and muscle aches associated with cold and flu, and a daily low dose of aspirin for heart health are well-known uses for this drug, but lately potential new health benefits have been uncovered.
Several studies conducted over the past few years, for example, have suggested aspirin can reduce cancer risk and, more specifically, whether aspirin may treat prostate cancer.
New evidence now suggests the active ingredient in aspirin, called salicylate, has a direct impact on the activity of the protein AMPK (AMP-activated protein kinase), which performs an essential role in regulating cell metabolism and growth. Specifically, “salicylate increases fat burning and reduces liver fat in obese mice,” noted Dr. Greg Steinberg, co-principal investigator of the study and professor of medicine at McMaster University.
This finding is significant, explained the authors, because there is a large clinical trial currently underway that is exploring whether an aspirin derivative called salsalate can prevent type 2 diabetes. In addition, the widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin also affects AMPK and has been shown to possibly help prevent cancer, raising the possibility that aspirin may work in a similar way.
Read more in our Prostate Cancer Health Center.
Hawley SA et al. The ancient drug salicylate directly activates AMP-activated protein kinase. Science 2012 Apr 19