The cholesterol-lowering medicines known as statins may double the risk of type 2 diabetes, according to new research from The Ohio State University published in the journal Diabetes Metabolism Research and Reviews.
Statins are one of the most commonly prescribed types of drugs in the United States, with an estimated 35 million Americans taking them, including roughly a quarter of middle-aged adults. The medicines help reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, lowering the risk of heart attack and stroke.
To evaluate the risk of diabetes from statins, researchers looked at data from 4,683 men and women who, at the start of the study, did not have diabetes and had not yet taken statins, but who were candidates for the medicines based on their risk of heart disease. During the study period, about 16% of the group was eventually prescribed statins.
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The researchers found that those taking statins had roughly double the risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes compared to those not taking the medicine, and that those who took statins for more than two years had more than three times the risk of the condition.
“The fact that increased duration of statin use was associated with an increased risk of diabetes — something we call a dose-dependent relationship — makes us think that this is likely a causal relationship,” noted lead study author Victoria Zigmont, PhD, MPH. “That said, statins are very effective in preventing heart attacks and strokes. I would never recommend that people stop taking the statin they’ve been prescribed based on this study, but it should open up further discussions about diabetes prevention and patient and provider awareness of the issue.”
People taking statins, the researchers suggest, should be closely monitored to determine if they are experiencing changes in glucose metabolism and should be provided with programs that help improve their fitness and diets in an effort to prevent diabetes.
Senior Digital Editor for DiabetesSelfManagement.com, Fennell has 16 years’ experience specializing in diabetes and related health conditions. Based in New York City, she has a degree from Columbia University.