Diabetes Self-Management Blog

Cholesterol-lowering statins slightly raise the risk of Type 2 diabetes, but the danger is small compared to the cardiovascular benefits of these medicines, according to a recent study from Scotland.

Using a type of research known as meta-analysis (in which statistics from several studies are combined and examined), researchers looked at data on over 90,000 people enrolled in 13 trials that used statins. Qualifying trials were randomized (meaning that participants were randomly assigned to the different treatment arms), lasted at least one year, and involved more than 1,000 participants. Statins included in the evaluation were atorvastatin (brand name Lipitor), simvastatin (Zocor), pravastatin (Pravachol), lovastatin (Mevacor), and rosuvastatin (Crestor). The researchers sought to clarify conflicting results from previous studies regarding whether statin use is associated with an increased risk of diabetes.

Of the 91,140 people enrolled in the studies, 4,278 developed diabetes during an average of four years of follow-up. Among those who developed the condition, 2,226 had been assigned to receive a statin, while 2,052 had been assigned to receive either a placebo (inactive treatment) or no treatment. This means that taking a statin is associated with a 9% increase in the four-year risk of developing diabetes.

According to lead author Naveed Sattar, PhD, “Statin therapy is associated with a slightly increased risk of developing diabetes, but the risk is low both in absolute terms and when compared with the reduction in coronary events.” Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death among people with diabetes.

The study authors noted that there is no clear explanation for the slight overall increase in diabetes risk associated with statins.

According to a piece on MedPage Today, Christopher Cannon, MD, suggested in a commentary accompanying the research report that “the most important calculation is the overall balance of risks versus benefits, which in the case of statins clearly favors the benefits.”

To learn more about the study, see the article “Diabetes Risk of Statins Outweighed by Heart Benefit” or read the study’s abstract in The Lancet.

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Comments
  1. Thank you for posting this study with interesting findings. Statins lowers LDL significantly and some of them raises HDL. Niacin raises HDL effectively than statins and it has been noticed by researchers that Niacin also decreases insulin sensitivity and raises blood glucose due to insulin resistance. Since statins has shown the mild risk of developing diabetes in this study, is this somehow corelated? Do we have to modify management strategies in targetting LDL and HDL levels with statins and Niacin?

    Diabetes India
    http://diabetesindia.org

    Posted by Diabetes India |
  2. Based on what you’ve reported, the first thing I would ask is what the weight and body-fat-percentaged distribution is among the patients who did, and who did not, develop diabetes. (In a more medically-advanced time, I’d ask for genetic risk scan information.) Because of the confluence of high serum cholesterol levels and other aspects of metabolic syndrome (overweight/obesity, hypertention, insulin resistance and/or prediabetes), it would not be an easy task to isolate the results of cholesterol-lowering drugs on other aspects of the syndrome.

    Posted by tmana |
  3. I am a severely brittle Type 2 diabetic with Syndrome X, and only marginally controlled with Lantus. I am 5′5″ and weigh 115 lbs, so weight is NOT an issue. Our family has a strong family history of heart disease; my father had his first MI at age 39.

    I tried several statin drugs in the early- to mid-2000’s and almost immediately had the associated muscle pain and weakness side-effect noted in the literature. (The only one I DIDN’T react to was Zycor for some peculiar reason, but it DID lower my cholesterol and triglycerides.) Consequently, I terminated their use.

    If you look carefully at the package insert, all of them specifically state that they may inhibit the effectiveness of diabetes drugs.

    After a little research, I also came to the conclusion that while people who had heart attacks generally were hypercholesteremic, no solid proof had been presented that lowering cholesterol levels actually lowered the risk of having an MI. I explained my position to my PCP, and although she was a little uncomfortable with this theory, she admitted that it was valid.

    This article reinforces that I made the right choice. If statins actually increase the chances of developing Type 2 diabetes, and additionally lower the effectiveness of antidiabetic agents, then it would be insane for me to take them.

    Reports are now coming out about other dangers of statins. This article, while written by one of those “vitamin people”,
    ( http://www.westonaprice.org/Dangers-of-Statin-Drugs-What-You-Havent-Been-Told-About-Popular-Cholesterol-Lowering-Medicines.html ) is fairly comprehensive when explaining the purpose of cholesterol in the body. Despite its source, there are plenty of other “real” studies that have been published lately to make everyone wary.

    Posted by GraceUnderFire |
  4. I’ve had diabetes for over 30 years. As a consequence, I am at elevated risk to develop heart problems. My cholesterol was high before taking Lipitor (now on 20mg per day) about 8 years ago. My blood chemistry has been further improved by the addition of Niacin. I’m now taking 2,000 units per day and the results of both medications are awesome. So, for your readers who already have diabetes, I see the benefits far outweighing the potential risks.

    Posted by Will Ryan |
  5. While 9% may not seem very large, what about those of us who may have already had higher risk factors for developing diabetes (physical characteristics, genetic predisposition etc.)? Think this information should be taken into consideration when prescribing statins.

    Seems to me there could be other factors at work here. Sometimes Drs. get tied up in achieving the right numbers and forget that we’re all individuals!

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention!

    Posted by CeeAyy |
  6. I would be interested in knowing how many in the control group taking the placebo had cardiac/vascular incidents versus those who took the statins, as well. Also, who sponsored the study?

    Posted by smartblnde |
  7. with this in mind. . . .Note: All comments are moderated and there may be a delay in the publication of your comment. Please be on-topic and appropriate. Do not disclose personal information. Be respectful of other posters. Only post information that is correct and true to your knowledge. When referencing information that is not based on personal experience, please provide links to your sources. All commenters are considered to be nonmedical professionals unless explicitly stated otherwise. Promotion of your own or someone else’s business or competing site is not allowed: Sharing links to sites that are relevant to the topic at hand is permitted, but advertising is not. Once submitted, comments cannot be modified or deleted by their authors. Comments that don’t follow the guidelines above may be deleted without warning. Such actions are at the sole discretion of DiabetesSelfManagement.com. Comments are moderated Monday through Friday by the editors of DiabetesSelfManagement.com. The moderators are employees of R.A. Rapaport Publishing, Inc., and do not report any conflicts of interest. A privacy policy setting forth our policies regarding the collection, use, and disclosure of certain information relating to you and your use of this Web site can be found here. For more information, please read our Terms and Conditions.

    with that all in mind. . .

    According to lead author Naveed Sattar, PhD, “Statin therapy is associated with a slightly increased risk of developing diabetes, but the risk is low both in absolute terms and when compared with the reduction in coronary events.” Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death among people with diabetes.

    The study authors noted that there is no clear explanation for the slight overall increase in diabetes risk associated with statins.

    diabetes being a symptom of insulin resistance is a start for my post.

    Insulin mediates pretty much most pathways in our physiology. I am a trucker. but before, I was a nutritionist and weightloss person with some noted success. when googling statins and insulin resistance. . .i noted that there are a good amount of studies showing some interest in this line of thought. 8 Weeks into trucking. . .tons have weight and diabetes issues. I will be on satellite radio shortly for a discussion of this. so interesting.

    could it be that statins mess with insulin signaling? I am not sure. will be googling a lot of different pathways. This was a very informative sight. . .thank you.

    Eric

    Posted by EriC Morrison |

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Note: All comments are moderated and there may be a delay in the publication of your comment. Please be on-topic and appropriate. Do not disclose personal information. Be respectful of other posters. Only post information that is correct and true to your knowledge. When referencing information that is not based on personal experience, please provide links to your sources. All commenters are considered to be nonmedical professionals unless explicitly stated otherwise. Promotion of your own or someone else's business or competing site is not allowed: Sharing links to sites that are relevant to the topic at hand is permitted, but advertising is not. Once submitted, comments cannot be modified or deleted by their authors. Comments that don't follow the guidelines above may be deleted without warning. Such actions are at the sole discretion of DiabetesSelfManagement.com. Comments are moderated Monday through Friday by the editors of DiabetesSelfManagement.com. The moderators are employees of Madavor Media, LLC., and do not report any conflicts of interest. A privacy policy setting forth our policies regarding the collection, use, and disclosure of certain information relating to you and your use of this Web site can be found here. For more information, please read our Terms and Conditions.


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