Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs may substantially increase men’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to new research from the University of Eastern Finland and Kuopio University Hospital.
For nearly six years, the study tracked 8,749 white men, ages 45 to 73. None of the participants previously had diabetes. About a quarter of them were taking statins. Researchers adjusted for confounding factors like age, BMI, waist circumference, family history, medications, and lifestyle habits.
During the course of the study, 239 of the 2,142 who were using statins (11 percent) developed type 2 diabetes. Of the 6,221 men not taking statins, only 386 (6 percent) developed the disease.
Overall, those treated with statins were 46 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who weren’t treated, reflecting a much higher risk than in previously reported studies.
The study’s authors surmised that statins increased type 2 diabetes risk because they encouraged insulin resistance and impaired the pancreas’s ability to secrete insulin.
Many experts, including study coauthor Markku Laakso, MD, insist that the benefits of preventive statin treatment for cardiovascular risks still outweigh their harmful effects on glucose metabolism, and note that risks are minimized with lower-dose statins.
Meanwhile, many integrative and functional physicians assert that most individuals will achieve far better outcomes by embracing a systems-based, lifestyle-driven approach to reducing and treating chronic disease.