Study finds that statins CAUSE Type 2 diabetes
02/06/2020 // Cassie B. // Views

If you’ve ever suspected that certain medical treatments seem to be trading one problem for another, you may be onto something. Case in point: A recent study revealed that people who take statins in hopes of reducing their risk of cardiovascular events could be raising their risk of diabetes in the process.

In the U.S., around 83 percent of patients aged 40 to 59 who take cholesterol-lowering meds take statins, making them the most popular type of drugs in their category. They often do so with the aim of lowering their cholesterol and their risk of cardiovascular events like heart attack or coronary heart disease.

Unfortunately, a study led by The Ohio State University in Columbus’s Victoria Zigmont showed these people may just be exchanging evils. They looked at the health records of more than 4,600 people who did not have diabetes at the study’s inception but did have a risk of heart disease. Sixteen percent of the participants were using prescription statins when the three-year study began in 2011.

After accounting for confounders such as age, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, gender, ethnicity, body mass index, education level, number of doctor visits and waist circumference, they found that people who take statins are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than those who don’t take the drug.

The effect only seems to grow with time, with those who took statins for two years or longer being more than three times as likely to go on to develop diabetes. The researchers say that the fact that it appears to be dose-dependent means that it is likely a causal relationship.


It wasn’t just Type 2 diabetes that those taking statins had to contend with, either. They also found that the patients using these drugs had a 6.5 percent higher chance of experiencing elevated blood sugar.

It’s worth noting that the study is considered a strong one given the large sample size and presence of real-world data supplied by doctors. The pharmacy data allowed them to measure the intensity and class of the statins used more accurately, although there’s no way to be certain just how well the patients complied with their prescriptions. Moreover, the use of biometric measurements allowed the researchers to adjust for other factors.

There were just a few limitations. Perhaps the biggest one is that all participants were white; it’s not known if other groups could experience a stronger or weaker effect from the medications. They also didn’t account for the use of other medications and only considered insured people who get routine monitoring from healthcare providers.

Plenty of evidence linking statins to Type 2 diabetes

A different study found an even stronger link between statins and Type 2 diabetes. After studying 8,567 patients whose average age was 64 over the course of 15 years, they found that using the drugs was associated with a higher risk of high blood sugar and insulin resistance, along with a 38 percent higher risk of Type 2 diabetes.

The type of statin and dosage didn’t appear to make a difference in this study, although the risk was particularly high in overweight and obese people taking statins, suggesting that anyone who is not at a healthy weight should think very carefully about safer alternatives before they start taking these drugs.

Meanwhile, other studies have shown that postmenopausal women are another group at a higher risk of developing diabetes from taking statins. That study looked at data from more than 150,000 women to make its findings, and they found that the incidence of new-onset diabetes among postmenopausal women was 71 percent higher.

While heart disease is something that everyone wants to avoid, putting yourself at risk of developing diabetes instead or even on top of it is hardly the way to go. Consider improving your diet, getting regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight to keep your risk of both illnesses in check.

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