Statins can cause an increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases

Statins are drugs used to lower blood cholesterol and prevent cardiovascular diseases. They have been linked to increased risk of diabetes and obesity in a new study that tracked patients for six and a half years. Statins work by inhibiting HMG CoA reductase, which makes up the rate-limiting step of cholesterol production. Statins have a similar structure to HMG CoA reductase and bind to the HMG CoA reductase active site, thus preventing cholesterol production. While the risk of diabetes with statin use is known, it was thought to be due to the fact that patients taking statins already had greater medical risks.

However, the study tested the link between statins and diabetic complications in healthy individuals. It was discovered that high-intensity statin therapy was linked to the highest risk of diabetes, diabetic complications and weight gain. This provided evidence of a dose-response relationship – wherein the amount of drug taken has measurable effect on the way the body responds to it.

During the study, researchers left out adults who had pre-existing cardiovascular diseases, diabetes or life-limiting chronic diseases and used 42 baseline characteristics to come up with a ‘propensity score’ that paired statin users and non-users. A propensity score is a statistical test that estimates the effect of a treatment.

Fourteen percent of patients developed diabetes, and after adjustments (including the fact that patients using statins possibly underwent more health checks) it was discovered that those on statins were 85% more likely to develop new-onset diabetes and twice as likely to develop diabetes with complications, as well increased weight gain and obesity in comparison to those without statins.

However, according to Alvin C Powers. MD at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine the risk/benefit ratio in patients with diabetes and statins remains the same as before. This suggests that the benefits of statins still outweigh any potential risks. The authors of the study itself admit that data on the long term effects of the association between statins and diabetic complications in healthy patients is limited, and as a consequence any conclusions will need to be tested further. This includes gathering information linked to different cardiovascular parameters and further research involving randomized controlled studies for prolonged periods and larger-scale prospective studies.

References, (2015). Statins Linked to Diabetes and Complications in Healthy Adults. [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 Jun. 2015].

Mansi I, e. (2015). Statins and New-Onset Diabetes Mellitus and Diabetic Complications: A Retrospective Cohort Study of US Healthy Adults. – PubMed – NCBI . [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 Jun. 2015].


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Sikemi Alli

Biomedical Sciences student with an interest in pharmacology, haematology, science publishing and ongoing research in oncology.

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