Here’s some sad news: the better you are at sticking to your statin therapy, the more likely you are to get diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, according the results of a new study. Providing further confirmation of the previously reported statin/diabetes link, the results were published in Diabetes Care, the journal of the American Diabetes Association and indicate that for commonly prescribed statin drugs such as simvastatin, side effects now include diabetes.
The new study examined a database of 115,709 statin-using patients, average age 62, each followed for an average of 6.4 years. Statins used by participants included simvastatin, pravastatin, fluvastatin, atorvastatin, and rosuvastatin (Crestor, AstraZeneca). No patients had been diagnosed with diabetes prior to taking the drugs, but 9.6% of the patients developed diabetes. The better the patients adhered to their statin therapy, the more likely they were to develop diabetes.
For those taking statins, diabetes risk increased 32%
After the researchers took into account the subjects’ age, sex, use of other drugs, history of cardiovascular disease, and other risk factors, the statin users who were the most consistent with taking their medication as prescribed and following up with their doctor had a 32% greater chance of getting diagnosed with diabetes than those who didn’t. Even the patients who were considered to have low or intermediate adherence to their statin prescription were at significantly increased risk compared to those with very low adherence. Furthermore, the dose of the statin did not make any significant difference on diabetes risk. The reason for the increased risk is still not known.
Do higher doses of statins increase diabetes risk more?
This was by no means the first study to make the statins/diabetes link. Back in 2011, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) examined five major clinical trials on statins that included 32,752 patients. During the 4.9-year study period, 8.4% developed diabetes and, unlike the most recent study, the overall risk for developing diabetes was increased the most for those on the highest statin dose.
The researchers found that for every 498 people treated, one more person would become diabetic and that 155 people would need to be treated for one year to prevent just one heart attack or death. According to leading integrative physician Dr. Mark Hyman, “if these drugs were not the top-selling drugs in history, we might accept a small risk, but if we treated everyone who ‘needed’ them, we would have more than 3.5 million more diabetics in America.”
More simvastatin side effects: exercise benefits blocked
Another disturbing new discovery about simvastatin side effects: not only do statin users exercise less and have poorer fitness, but when statin users do exercise, they don’t get the same benefits as those not taking a statin. Patients taking statins have more fatigue, muscle pain, and joint pain than similar non-statin users. Up to 25% of current statin users report muscle pain, which is the most common reason cited for discontinuing a statin. Statins can damage your cells’ energy-production factories, the mitochondria, zapping their ability to effectively produce energy.
But even the people taking statins who do manage to exercise, research shows, don’t reap the well-deserved rewards. In one study, overweight, sedentary men were put on an exercise program for 12 weeks. Half the men were given simvastatin. After 12 weeks, the simvastatin group experienced no improvement in their fitness level—as if they hadn’t exercised at all.
Statins decrease energy production in muscle cells
In fact, when muscle biopsies were performed, muscle mitochondrial levels actually decreased by 4.5% in the simvastatin-plus-exercise group, meaning they had less energy-production capacity in their cells and were in worse condition than before they started the exercise program. Meanwhile, mitochondrial levels increased by 13% in the exercise-only group.
Statin side effects are no joke
For those on statins, such as pravastatin or simvastatin, side effects are no laughing matter. You deserve to work with a physician who is willing to discuss with you these two newly discovered side effects of statins: diabetes and reduced benefits from exercise. The truth is that heart disease and high cholesterol are lifestyle diseases that require lifestyle therapies. Natural cholesterol-lowering supplements with fewer side effects can also be of benefit. To find out more about well-researched lifestyle therapies and natural supplements that are effective in clinical studies for lowering cholesterol, see our 118-page Comprehensive Guide. And please, share with our readers your experience with statins below.