It is estimated that between 5 and 6 million French people consume statins daily. It is a class of drugs widely prescribed throughout the world. They mainly reduce the level of bad cholesterol (LDL) and above all they have a preventive role by reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as myocardial infarction or stroke.
Taking statins is often prescribed for life. But the other side of the coin is grim, the side effects of statins now calling their real health benefits into question.
Statins are a class of drugs with a lipid-lowering effect. They allow to treat hypercholesterolemia mainly by lowering the level of “bad cholesterol” (LDL or LDL-C for LDL cholesterol).
They have a mainly preventive role, the objective being to reduce cardiovascular risk. But if certain risks go down on the one hand, others increase.
A 46% increase in diabetes
A large Finnish study published in March 2015 in the European journal Diabetologia showed that the risk of type 2 diabetes, at least in white men (the study involved more than 8,700 white Finnish men aged 45 to 73), was approximately twice as high in people taking statins as those not taking them, and 46% higher after taking into account correction factors such as obesity, so as not to skew the results. According to the researchers, statins increase insulin resistance by about 24% and decrease insulin secretion by 12%.
According to another Australian study published in 2017 in the specialized journal Drugs and Aging, women over the age of 75 are 33% more likely to develop diabetes if they take statins.
This study conducted by the University of Queensland, in Western Australia, focused on the analysis of data from more than 8,000 Australian women. Other studies have shown an association between taking statins and diabetes in postmenopausal women, as noted by the American journal Prevention in its December 2017 issue.
Skyrocketing hyperglycemia and insulin resistance
Finally, a study published on March 4, 2019 in the scientific journal British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, people who take statins may have an increased risk of hyperglycemia, insulin resistance and possibly type 2 diabetes.
The analysis focused on 9,535 people over the age of 45 who did not have diabetes at the start of the so-called Rotterdam study and who were followed up for a period of 15 years. Compared with participants who never took statins, those who took statins tended to have higher fasting serum insulin concentrations and insulin resistance.
Participants who had previously taken statins had a 38% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes during the study. This risk was higher in people with impaired glycemic control and in people who were overweight or obese.
Statins: Other Unpleasant Side Effects
Gastrointestinal disorders or liver problems can also occur with the intake of statins. Other side effects can be back pain and liver problems.
Liver damage from statins occurs very rarely, with about 1 in 100,000 people taking statins, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). A study of 20 million people showed that 10-20% of this population taking statins experienced side effects and, in particular, muscle-type problems.
Most of the time these muscle disorders are not serious, but they can disrupt the patient’s life (pain).
For the full list of side effects, read the package insert and ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice when buying or taking statins.
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