Statins and Diabetes Linked in Study

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: Heart Health, Blood Sugar, Cholesterol
Last Reviewed 04/16/2014

As you may have seen in the news this week, researchers reported new findings in the Archives of Internal Medicine that link cholesterol-lowering statinss and diabetes.

Statins and Diabetes Linked in Study

The findings were the result of a multi-year study which followed nearly 154,000 women in the Women’s Health initiative. What they found is that post-menopausal women taking certain types of statins had a 48 percent greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The researchers didn’t specify which types of statin drugs contribute to diabetes, but the very fact that statins and diabetes are linked isn’t a new finding. Despite these findings, authors note that current guidelines for statin therapy need NOT be changed! Really?

Several years ago, the highly publicized JUPITER study published in the New England Journal of Medicine touted the ability of the statin drug Crestor to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. What was lost in those highly publicized findings was the fact that in that same study those taking Crestor had a higher incidence of developing diabetes than the placebo group.

Plus, you may remember a blog entry I wrote about new findings reported in the Journal of the Medical Association (JAMA) that high-dose statins (80 mg) can increase a patient’s risk of developing diabetes. 

What Is the Relationship Between Statins and Diabetes?

The exact mechanism hasn't been confirmed, but there are several things we do know. First off, as I've often said statins impede important biochemical pathways as they block cholesterol, such as production of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) as well as agents that impact insulin growth factor IGF. We also know that abnormally low IGF-1 levels are associated with the premature development of type 2 diabetes.

The Bottom Line for Statins and Diabetes

The same advice I’ve been giving for years still holds. The only group of people who should be on a statin drug is middle-aged males with coronary artery disease. This group has the most to gain from these medications, so the medications far outweigh the risks. But these drugs are not for postmenopausal women—giving women these medications, like they did in this most recent study—is poor medicine. That’s especially true since we lack convincing evidence that statin therapy confers any protective benefits at all for postmenopausal women.

I also want to reiterate something I’ve said before, that the benefit of statin drugs isn’t the cholesterol-lowering effect. Rather, it’s the fact that statin drugs thin the blood and reduce inflammation, which is the real way to combat coronary artery disease.
 
Finally, I want to remind you that if you’re on a statin drug, you MUST take Coenzyme Q10 (Co10) because statins deplete the body of this important nutrient. At a minimum, you want to take 200 mg of highly absorbable CoQ10 in divided doses with your statins. That’s just smart medicine.

Now it’s your turn: Do you have any questions about statins and diabetes?

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