Quick Study: Statins' Health Benefits Outweigh Diabetes Risk

Users of statins risk developing Type 2 diabetes, but improve their heart health.

About one-fourth of adults over the age of 45 are on statins. A study finds that despite being linked to a higher risk of diabetes, the drug's benefits can't be denied. (Photo: Chris Gallagher/Getty Images)

Aug 10, 2012
Jeannine Stein, a California native, wrote about health for the Los Angeles Times. In her pursuit of a healthy lifestyle she has taken countless fitness classes, hiked in Nepal and got in a boxing ring.

The study: The benefits of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs outweigh the risks of developing Type 2 diabetes, a study published online in the journal The Lancet suggests. Previous studies have shown that the use of statins could put people more at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes; that information prompted the Food and Drug Administration to compel drug companies to issue warning labels.

An analysis of 27 studies found that people who were at risk for diabetes were 39 percent less likely to develop cardiovascular disease while on statins, and 17 percent less likely to die during the study period. Having at least one risk factor for diabetes made patients 28 percent more apt to develop diabetes while on statins compared to a control group. For those without any diabetes risk factors the increased chances of acquiring the disease were negligible.

MORE: Quick Study: Curry Favors Type 2 Diabetes Prevention

What we already know: Statins are highly prescribed in the U.S. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics found that from 2005 to 2008, 25 percent of adults 45 and older used statins, up from 2 percent from 1988 to 1994. A number of studies have shown statins’ benefits, such as helping to lower stroke risk in people with coronary artery disease.

What it means for you: Find out if you’re at higher risk for developing Type 2 diabetes if prescribed statins. If you are, your doctor may want to keep an eye on blood sugar levels and might recommend losing weight and exercising.

Do you think the benefits of taking statins outweigh the risks? Let us know in the comments.

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