Men Taking Statins Face an Increased Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes

by Barbara Hewitt on March 5, 2015

Men taking statins could face a 46% increase in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes even after confounding factors are taken into account, new research has found.

Previous studies have suggested an increased risk of varying levels of developing diabetes associated with statin use but this study from Finland is the first not to rely on selective subjects and not to rely on self-reported symptoms.

pillsProfessor Markku Laakso and resesarchers from the Institute of Clinical Medicine at the University of Eastern Finland and Kuopio University Hospital, Finland, looked at the effects of statin treatment on the risk of type 2 diabetes and deterioration of blood sugar control in 8,749 non-diabetic men.

They also investigated the mechanisms of statin induced diabetes by evaluating changes in insulin resistance and insulin secretion in the group of men aged 45 to 73 years over six years.

New diabetes was diagnosed in 625 men with either an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT), an HbA1c level of 6.5% or higher, or anti-diabetic medication started during the follow up.

The researchers found that, after the results were adjusted for age, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, physical activity, smoking, alcohol intake, family history of diabetes, and beta-blocker and diuretic treatment, patients treated with statins were 46% more likely to develop diabetes than those not treated with statins.

Statin treatment significantly increased 2-h glucose (2hPG) at follow-up, with a nominally significant increase in fasting glucose (FPG). Insulin sensitivity was decreased by 24% and insulin secretion by 12% in individuals on statin treatment.

Furthermore, decreases in insulin sensitivity and insulin secretion were dose dependent for simvastatin and atorvastatin. And, after adjustment for all the confounders, high dose simvastatin was associated with a 44% increased risk of developing diabetes, while for low dose simvastatin the increased risk was 28% and for high dose atorvastatin the increased risk was 37%. Overall, 29% of participants were taking simvastatin, while 53% were taking atorvastatin.

‘The association of statin use with increased risk of developing diabetes is most likely directly related to statins decreasing both insulin sensitivity and secretion,’ the study says.

Furthermore, they stressed that while the size of the study makes their conclusions reliable, the study sample was Caucasian men, so the applicability to women or people of other ethnic origin cannot be confirmed without further research.

‘Statin therapy was associated with a 46% increased risk of type 2 diabetes after adjustment for confounding factors, suggesting a higher risk of diabetes in the general population than previously reported,’ the study concludes.

Many people take statins to lower the body’s cholesterol, a key risk factor for coronary heart disease, heart attack and strokes, and British Heart Foundation medical director, Professor Peter Weissberg, said it is important that people taking statins because of existing cardiovascular disease should continue to take them as the benefits will outweigh the risks.

‘Previous studies have shown that statins, while protecting against a life threatening heart attack or stroke, can increase a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes. This study showed that it was patients taking a high dose statin who were most at risk of developing type 2 diabetes and, importantly, many of the patients who developed diabetes already had risk factors for diabetes at the start of the study. This suggests that statins may act by unmasking a pre-existing tendency to diabetes,’ he explained.

‘Healthy people taking statins to reduce their future risk of developing heart disease should be taking the lowest effective dose and should be doing all in their power to reduce their future risk of developing diabetes and CVD by not smoking, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight,’ he added.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: