As you know, statins rank as one of my most despised drug classes of all time. Statins have traditionally been prescribed to patients with high cholesterol, in an effort to lower it. And yes, for whatever it’s worth, statins are great at lowering cholesterol. But usually not without paying a price. Statins have been linked to weight gain, liver damage, memory loss, muscle wasting, chronic pain, insomnia, cataracts, and brain fog. Just to name a few.
But one of the most dangerous associations is between statins and diabetes. You see, there have been conflicting reports on statins’ role in this disease. Some research suggests that statins cause diabetes, while another study claims they lower the risk of developing it.
So when I came across this headline the other day:
“The Statin Diabetes Conundrum: Short-term Gain, Long-term Risk or Inconvenient Truth?”
I had to take a closer look.
I was actually impressed by what I read because this was an independent review that looked at several studies on statins. They parsed out the positives and negatives to try to determine what, if any, meaningful use these drugs may have.
In an effort to make sense out of all this confusion, here are a few simple questions and answers that cut through all the mumbo jumbo:
- Do statins cause diabetes?
You know there must be some truth to the fact that statins are risky when the FDA finally steps in. In fact, the FDA just updated the warning on its website to say: “People being treated with statins may have an increased risk of raised blood sugar levels and the development of Type 2 diabetes.”
After carefully examining the evidence, the consensus is yes, there is a modest increased risk of diabetes from statin drugs.
- If you already have diabetes, will taking statins make it worse?
Probably. Increased blood sugar is a well-documented side effect of statins. And obviously, this can worsen your diabetes.
But what’s even more concerning about this side effect is the vicious cycle it sets off: Statins increase your risk of diabetes (or make it worse). Diabetes is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease (CHD). Heart disease is the number-one killer in diabetics. And statins are mainstream medicine’s go-to treatment for heart disease.
Increased risk of CHD starts after about 8 years of the onset of diabetes. Given the rising number of new cases of type 2 diabetes, we’re unfortunately going to be seeing a lot more heart disease in the future.
- Will statins increase your lifespan?
This was probably the most important thing this review uncovered. Not only have studies been reporting incomplete data, but they have also chosen to quietly overlook the lack of benefit when it comes to statins’ effect on mortality.
In fact, research conducted over the past 20 years has shifted away from the mortality outcomes altogether. Instead, emphasis has been placed on reporting any benefits revealed by the research. It’s no coincidence that during this same time frame, drug companies started to control research in this country. And for the drug manufacturers, it’s much more beneficial for a study to have some positive outcomes than just reporting stats on how much — or how little — mortality was affected.
For example, in one study, called the Cholesterol Treatment Trialists’ (CTT), researchers performed a meta-analysis of 14 randomized controlled trials of statins used in diabetes. And they concluded there was a “robust reduction in all vascular events” (a “vascular event” could be anything from having a mild angina attack to a full blown heart attack). But the benefit of living longer was barely statistically significant.
So to put it simply, the research is skewed to produce whatever results the drug companies want it to reveal.
But the most important outcome from any drug intervention answers this question: “will it improve my quality of life and help me live longer?” Why do something so drastic if it isn’t going to increase your life span?
That’s the key to the interpretation of these studies, especially with statins. They simply do not increase your life span. They may lower your cholesterol, but what good is that if they give you diabetes at the same time?
Bottom line, there is simply no good reason to take a statin drug. There are much simpler, safer ways to protect your heart (you can learn more about them in my special report The World’s Easiest Heart Disease Cure).
And as for preventing — or even reversing — diabetes, you’re much better off focusing on a proven approach that won’t put you at risk for further complications down the road. Something like my Metabolic Repair Protocol. This comprehensive course gives you the step-by-step advice I use with my own patients. And I can tell you, without a doubt, it’s far more effective than statins — or any drug, for that matter.
Sattar N. Revisiting the links between glycaemia, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Diabetologia 2013;56:686–96.