New study gives insight into effect of long term use of statins on type 2 diabetes

by Barbara Hewitt on March 18, 2016

Scientists have discovered that using statin can result in weight gain and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and complications from the condition.

It is not the first time a link has been made between statins and type 2 diabetes but the research from the United States gives more of an insight into the complicated relationship between the drug and diabetes.

However, health experts are urging people taking statins not to stop doing so and the study’s authors say that healthcare professionals should weight up the risks associated with stains before recommending any change.

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The findings came from a 10 year study of 26,000 people in Tricare, the military health system in the United States. It found that those taking statins to control their cholesterol were 87% more likely to develop diabetes.

While it confirms past findings on the link between the widely prescribed drugs and diabetes risk, it is among the first to show the connection in a relatively healthy group of people. The study included only people who at baseline were free of heart disease, diabetes, and other severe chronic disease.

“In our study, statin use was associated with a significantly higher risk of new onset diabetes, even in a very healthy population,” says lead author Dr. Ishak Mansi of the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas.

“The risk of diabetes with statins has been known, but up until now it was thought that this might be due to the fact that people who were prescribed statins had greater medical risks to begin with,” he explained, adding that they also found statin use was also associated with a very high risk of diabetes complications.

Among 3,351 pairs of similar patients, part of the overall study group, those patients on statins were 250% more likely than their non-statin using counterparts to develop diabetes with complications. Statin users were also 14% more likely to become overweight or obese after being on the drugs and the higher the dose of any of the statins, the greater the risk of diabetes, diabetes complications, and obesity.

Mansi pointed out that the study doesn’t definitively show that statins cause diabetes, nor does it mean people should stop using the drugs, which are widely prescribed to help people lower their cardiac risk factors.

“No patient should stop taking their statins based on our study, since statin therapy is a cornerstone in treatment of cardiovascular diseases and has been clearly shown to lower mortality and disease progression,” he said.

“Rather, this study should alert researchers, clinical guideline writers, and policymakers that short term clinical trials might not fully describe the risks and benefits of long term statin use for primary prevention,” he added.

He believes that further research should be done to better understand the long term effects of statin use. “I myself am a firm believer that these medications (statins) are very valuable for patients when there are clear and strict indications for them. But knowing the risks may motivate a patient to quit smoking, rather than swallow a tablet, or to lose weight and exercise. Ideally, it is better to make those lifestyle changes and avoid taking statins if possible,” he concluded.


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

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