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Cholesterol-lowering Drugs May Raise Diabetes Risk

Statins are a class of drugs used to treat elevated LDL cholesterol levels. Recently, researchers carried out a meta-analysis of 13 statin vs. placebo trials. Collectively, these researchers included over 90,000 subjects in their analysis and came to the conclusion that taking statin drugs to lower cholesterol increases the likelihood of being diagnosed with diabetes by 9% over the following four years.1

This is, in fact, the second meta-analysis performed in the past few months to come to this conclusion — an analysis published in October 2009 determined that statins increased diabetes risk by 13%.2

Nine percent (or even 13%) may seem like a small risk, but let’s think about how many people take statin drugs. Today, cholesterol-lowering medications are the second most prescribed drug class in the U.S. (behind only pain relievers).3 Between 1988 and 2006 the use of statin drugs in U.S. adults over 45 increased tenfold.4

Currently, over 30 million Americans take statin drugs, and this number may increase further. Statins may soon be recommended to older Americans who have normal LDL levels but elevated C-reactive protein.5

Each one of these millions of people will have a 9% increased risk of diabetes — when they could have used a high-nutrient diet to lower their LDL and reduce their cardiovascular risk. A high-nutrient diet, rich in unrefined plant foods, can reduce cholesterol to the same extent as statin drugs.6 Since reducing cholesterol with diet and exercise addresses the cause of the high cholesterol (the typical American diet), there will be no risk involved — in fact, it will also lead to weight loss, which will then reduce diabetes risk.

Statins are not benign substances — they are powerful drugs with side effects that include muscle pain and liver damage. Which would you choose to lower your LDL — statin drugs plus increased diabetes risk and potential liver and muscle damage or dietary changes that reduce blood pressure, reverse and prevent diabetes and protect against dementia? My view is that drugs also have the psychological effects to inhibit the necessity of lifestyle and dietary changes that are the root cause of almost all our nation’s medical problems. Any way you look at it, drugs kill millions of people and drug-centered health care is the problem, not the solution, to our heath crisis and tremendous medical suffering.

References:
1. Sattar N et al. Statins and risk of incident diabetes: a collaborative meta-analysis of randomised statin trials. Lancet. 2010 Feb 16. [Epub ahead of print]
2. Rajpathak SN et al. Statin therapy and risk of developing type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis. Diabetes Care. 2009 Oct;32(10):1924-9.
3. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/FASTATS/drugs.htm
4. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/10newreleases/hus09.htm
5. Spatz ES et al.  From here to JUPITER: identifying new patients for statin therapy using data from the 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Circ Cardiovasc Qual Outcomes. 2009 Jan;2(1):41-8. Epub 2009 Jan 13.
6. Jenkins DJ et al. Effect of a very-high-fiber vegetable, fruit, and nut diet on serum lipids and colonic function. Metabolism. 2001 Apr;50(4):494-503.

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