Are statins increasing your diabetes risk?

A recent study seems to suggest that statins greatly increase your diabetes risk. But can it be believed?

24 June 2015
by Kassabaine Petersen

There is a well-known saying: never believe everything you read… We at Clicks Online recently learnt just how true this is.

A recent report published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine claimed that the latest research into the use of statins revealed that 87% of those participants involved in a study developed diabetes. The study looked at 26 000 beneficiaries of the US military health system called Tricare.

This shocking statistic was picked up by countless medical websites and quickly gained ground, prompting many to start worrying about the reported increased risk of diabetes if taking statins.

But after taking a closer look at the study and investigating further, Clicks Online can reveal that the initial report was based on human error. In fact, just 1.87% of the study’s participants developed diabetes as a result of taking statins, says Dr Dirk Blom, a diabetes expert and the University of Cape Town’s head of the Lipidology Department in the Department of Medicine. “If statins caused diabetes in 87% of patients, nobody would be using them anymore!” confirms Dr Dirk Blom.

What can you believe?

When taking statins, you’re not only reducing your cholesterol, but also your risk of heart attack, stroke and other heart problems. It is saving the lives of countless people who need it. The truth is that statins do increase the risk of developing diabetes, but only to a small extent, explains Dr Blom.

This link is well established. Statins have been shown to make insulin less effective at keeping blood sugar normal. Also, statins are associated with weight gain – and carrying additional weight is another important risk factor for developing diabetes. In the Tricare study, statin users were 14% more likely to become overweight.

The link between statins and diabetes

While statins are to blame for inducing diabetes in a small number of patients using the life-saving drug, typically those patients already had some underlying risk to begin with, say the experts. If you are overweight or have a family history of diabetes, statins can spark an existing pre-condition. “The benefits of taking statins still outweigh the risks in the vast majority of patients,” says Dr Blom.

While some high-risk people will need to take statins no matter what, borderline patients can make lifestyle changes to naturally reduce their cholesterol and improve their overall health to avoid taking statins if possible. These include:

  • Keep a healthy body weight, eat a healthy diet and get regular physical activity.
  • Aim for 40 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise, three to four times a week.
  • Eat more fresh produce, whole grains, fish, legumes and nuts.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Watch your intake of sugar, starches and carbohydrates to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
  • If you are on statins, don’t be complacent and expect that popping a pill will solve all your health issues. Be proactive.

How Clicks Clinics can help you

Clicks Clinics will help you prevent, identify and manage diabetes with their wide range of screening tests and health assessments.
These include:

  • Glucose Screening with Consultation
  • Urine Test (tests for blood, protein and glucose)
  • Blood Pressure Test
  • Cholesterol Testing and Consultation
  • Lipogram Blood Test (to determine different types of cholesterol)
  • Foot Screening Consultation (to check for diabetes-related foot problems)
  • Clicks Full Basic Screening (BP, Body Mass Index or BMI, meal guide and exercise plan)
  • Clicks Screening Measurements only (BP and BMI)
  • Clicks Comprehensive Screening (BP, BMI, Glucose and Cholesterol screening, plus meal and exercise plan)

To make an appointment at a Clicks Clinic, call 0860 254 257 or visit Clicks Clinics online.

IMAGE CREDIT: 123rf.com

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