Under the spell of statins, liver cells are then more capable of capturing low-density lipoprotein cholesterol from the blood of patients, potentially reducing risk of heart attack and stroke. Statin drugs are often prescribed after one has suffered a major vascular event to prevent future incidents. However, suppressing the natural function of enzymes in the liver may very well invite new problems in the human body.
Taking statins increases type 2 diabetes risk by 12 percent
New research from the University College London (UCL) and the University of Glasgow finds that these statin drugs are more risky than rewarding, increasing risk for diabetes and weight gain. A large-scale analysis investigated the mechanism by which statins increase a patient's risk of type 2 diabetes.
In clinical trials that studied the effect of stain drugs on heart disease and stroke, 130,000 participants also underwent tests to determine diabetes risk in relation to the statin drugs. Over a four-year period, patients on statins gained an excess of 240 grams and were 12 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes versus those on placebo. The researchers were able to see that statins and variants of an enzyme-encoding gene in liver cells had a similar effect for increasing risk for type 2 diabetes and weight gain.
Coauthor Dr. Daniel Swerdlow of the UCL Institute of Cardiovascular Science confirmed that the findings were related to the statin drugs that participants were taking. "Commonly occurring variants in the gene encoding the same liver enzyme are associated with a lower LDL-cholesterol," he explained, but "Incorporating information from up to 220 000 individuals, we found that these genetic variants were also associated with a higher weight and marginally higher type 2 diabetes risk."
Swerdlow explained the effects of these genetic variants: "The effects were very much smaller than from statin treatment, but the genetic findings indicate that the weight gain and diabetes risk observed in the analysis from trials are related to the known mechanism of action of statins rather than some other unintended effect."
Statins are a risky way to try and prevent cardiovascular diseaseIn the study, co-senior author Professor Aroon Hingorani explained that suppressing these specific liver enzymes causes future metabolic distress in patients: "The genetic findings of our study help to explain the mechanism by which statins increase weight and diabetes risk. However, the effects of the genetic variants are orders of magnitude lower than the effects of statins."
The UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends that doctors prescribe statins for those who are deemed at a 10 percent higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease within the next decade. Broad suggestions like these can catapult entire populations of healthy people on a course with unintended side effects like type 2 diabetes.
Is controlling cholesterol levels in this way an effective solution or are statins a misleading racket? What are better ways for doctors to encourage patients to maintain a healthy vascular system without the need for these risky statin drugs?
Co-senior author of the study Professor Naveed Sattar recommends, "Many patients eligible for statin treatment would also benefit from lifestyle changes including increased physical activity, eating more healthily and stopping smoking. The modest increases in weight and diabetes risk seen in this study could easily be mitigated by adopting healthier diets and lifestyles. Reinforcing the importance of lifestyle changes when discussing these issues with patients would further enhance the benefit of statin treatment in preventing heart attacks and strokes."
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