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Statins may help lower cholesterol but can also INCREASE diabetes risk, says study


The available research on statin use and Type 2 diabetes risk provides varied results. But a recent study revealed that the cholesterol-lowering medication significantly heightens the risk of Type 2 diabetes. The study, published in Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews, also showed that individuals who took statins for at least two years were at the greatest risk of the disease.

Statins: Uses, risks and side effects

Statin, a class of drugs primarily used to reduce cholesterol levels, is one of the most commonly used medicines in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 42 million American adults aged 21 years or older were on a cholesterol-lowering medication. Physicians usually prescribe statins – generically or under names like atorvastatin, simvastatin and rosuvastatin – for people with high cholesterol, a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

However, statins are one of the most hotly contested and controversial drugs in the field of medicine. Many studies on statins report adverse side effects caused by the drugs, while many others attest to their efficacy.

For instance, a 2008 study published in the American Journal of Cardiovascular Drugs found evidence indicating that statin use can lead to muscle inflammation and chronic muscle pain. In severe cases, statin use was also shown to heighten the risk of rhabdomyolysis, a serious syndrome marked by damaged skeletal muscles, weakness, dark red urine and kidney failure. The study also showed that statin use led to mitochondrial defects, which may cause genetic mutations and oxidative stress in individuals.

Meanwhile, a recent study published in Circulation Research showed that statins can also be toxic, in which case they can affect brain functions and cause neurological defects. Unfortunately, further research on the subject is hindered by the fact that there is no universally accepted definition of statin toxicity or intolerance due to the controversial status of the medication. Still, randomized controlled trials suggest that statin toxicity can affect immunity and worsen comorbidities.

Other adverse health issues linked to statin use include headaches, abdominal cramps, constipation, nausea, liver damage, liver failure and memory loss. (Related: Risk of Parkinson’s disease increases with statin drug use.)

The link between statin use and Type 2 diabetes risk

Although the drugs do lower cholesterol to a certain extent, a team of researchers from Ohio State University found that this benefit comes at a cost: an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.

To understand the link between statin use and Type 2 diabetes risk, the researchers observed 4,683 obese individuals with indications for statin use from 2011 to 2014. 62 percent of the participants were female, while 38 percent were male. They also considered factors like race and noted that 83 percent of the participants were white. Another 12 percent were black, while four percent belonged to other minority groups. However, the researchers did not take into account certain risk factors for Type 2 diabetes, such as exercise, tobacco use and alcohol consumption.

They also conducted a retrospective cohort study, which means that they reviewed available research to uncover possible connections between statins and Type 2 diabetes. Prior to the study, none of the participants had Type 2 diabetes, but they were all eligible for statin use due to a high risk of cardiovascular disease. Eventually, only 755 participants were prescribed statins.

Throughout the study, the researchers assessed several factors like cholesterol levels, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and the number of visits to physicians. They also monitored the participants’ glycated hemoglobin, a form of hemoglobin to which glucose is bound. This is typically measured to assess the long-term risk of Type 2 diabetes.

At the end of the study, the researchers found that participants who used statins had more than double the risk of Type 2 diabetes compared to those who weren’t on the medication. They also found that those who took statins for at least two years had the greatest risk of the disease, which indicates a causal relationship between statin use and Type 2 diabetes risk.

These results suggest that statins significantly heighten the risk of Type 2 diabetes, especially when taken for long periods.

Visit DiabetesScienceNews.com for more stories on Type 2 diabetes studies and breakthroughs.

Sources include:

OnlineLibrary.Wiley.com

CDC.gov

NCBI.NLM.NIH.gov

AHAJournals.org



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