Do Statins Cause Diabetes?

Anyone over the age of 40 with even the hint of elevated cholesterol will have been urged by their doctor to go onto statins, medications that lower cholesterol.

They’re the biggest selling drug in the world, and with the boomer bulge passing through for the next 20 years, likely to remain so for the next couple of decades.

Many doctors swear by them as the means to beat heart disease and stroke, but increasingly there’s research that indicates far from being the answer, they may actually be part of the problem.

Insulin First Step to Diabetes

Integrated medicine specialist Dr Mark Hyman has been following the debate closely.

He reports that research a few years ago showed patients whose cholesterol was reduced by statins had higher levels of insulin, while those whose cholesterol was lowered by diet had lower insulin levels.

That set him thinking, because elevated insulin levels are the first step on the road to diabetes — they make you gain weight around the middle, cause high blood pressure, increase inflammation, and promote stickiness of the blood. Each of these conditions, in turn, contributes to heart attacks and heart disease.

Solution Part Of Problem?

He had to ask – did statins contribute to the development of pre-diabetes and diabetes which are among the most significant risk factors for heart disease?

In other words, did lowering cholesterol with statins — a treatment purported to reduce the risk of heart disease — actually increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes by some other mechanism?

The answer, according to a recent study in the Lancet, is yes statins do increase the risk of diabetes, by 9 percent. The authors considered this acceptable and made no recommendation for changes in the ways statins are used.

Dr Hyman considers the risks were not fully estimated, and asks why a dietary and lifestyle change approach is not considered, when increasing research is showing it’s effective.

Good Health Best Revenge

He cites a recent “EPIC” study “Healthy Living is the Best Revenge” published in the Archives of Internal Medicine which showed sticking to four simple behaviours -not smoking, exercising 3.5 hours a week, eating a healthy diet (fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and low meat consumption), and keeping a healthy weight (BMI less than 30) significantly reduced chronic illness.

In those that adhered, 93 percent of diabetes, 81 percent of heart attacks, 50 percent of strokes, and 36 percent of all cancers were prevented.

Says Dr Hyman: “Nutrition, exercise, and stress management can no longer be considered alternative medicine. They are essential medicine, and often the most effective and cost-effective therapies to deal with the chronic disease epidemic that is now the primary cause of death worldwide.”

So What About You?

Have you tried to make changes in diet or life style and what was the result?  Did you manage to maintain it? Did you find a friend or support group to reinforce the new behaviour?  Lets us know how you went, and what you’d do differently next time…  We’d love to hear from you.

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