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A Potential Link Between Statin Use and Risk for Type 2 Diabetes?

A new study that was recently published in the journal Diabetologia reports that the use of statins, which are drugs commonly used to lower cholesterol, may actually increase a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes.1,2 Further, these risks are still evident after accounting for age, smoking status and body mass index.

The relationship between statins and type 2 diabetes risk isn’t a new concept, but previous studies have significant limitations. Previously published studies have only examined this link in very specific populations, like people who are at high risk of cardiovascular disease, or in people whose diabetes was self-reported rather than documented by a health care professional.

In this new study, Professor Markku Laakso of the Institute of Clinical Medicine at the University of Eastern Finland and Kuopio University Hospital in Finland and colleagues examined the effects of statin use on 8,749 Caucasian men aged 45-73 years who did not have diabetes and who were part of the Finland-based Metabolic Syndrome in Men (METSIM) study. After 5.9 years follow-up, a total of 625 men were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Results indicated that men who were treated with statins were at 46% higher risk of diabetes than men who were not treated with statins. Further, this increased risk was still evident after adjusting for age, body mass index, waist circumference, physical activity levels, smoking status, alcohol intake, family history of diabetes and treatment with beta-blockers and diuretic medications.

Additionally, Laakso and his team found that statins led to a 24% reduction in insulin sensitivity during follow-up, and a 12% reduction in insulin secretion.

Based on the study results, the researchers concluded, “”Statin therapy was associated with a 46% increased risk of type 2 diabetes after adjustment for confounding factors, suggesting a higher risk of diabetes in the general population than previously reported. The association of statin use with increased risk of developing diabetes is most likely directly related to statins decreasing both insulin sensitivity and secretion.”

Of course, results of this study are limited due to investigators only including Caucasian males, and therefore conclusions can not be drawn about the relationship between statin use and type 2 diabetes in other populations.

  1. Cederberg H, Stančáková A, Yaluri N, Modi S, Kuusisto J, Laakso M. Increased risk of diabetes with statin treatment is associated with impaired insulin sensitivity and insulin secretion: a 6 year follow-up study of the METSIM cohort. Diabetologia (2015) 58:1109–1117.
  2. Whiteman H. Study finds increased risk of type 2 diabetes with statin use. Medical News Today. March 20, 2015.