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‘Significantly higher rates of diabetes’ shown with statin therapy

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Statins have been in use as a way to treat high cholesterol for years. However, in the past, scientists have become concerned that their use could increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.

This wasn’t always the case, until the early 2000s, the theory was that they could reduce the risk of the condition developing.

However, this was turned on its head after a 2008 trial in which adults who were given 20 milligrams of a statin known as rosuvastatin each day were found to have an increased risk of diabetes.

Speaking to the New York Times, Dr Jill Crandall of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine said before this 2008 study that “there was a sense that maybe statins would reduce the risk of diabetes. In the end, we saw something completely different”.

This mid-noughties study was not the last of its kind, and in subsequent published works, the link has been seen again.

Both studies in animals and clinical trials in people have suggested that statins could increase someone’s risk of diabetes by making them more resistant to insulin, the hormone which helps to regulate glucose levels in the blood.

According to Dr Savitha Subramanian, the link is most often seen in patients taking “moderate to high intensity doses” e.g., 40 to 80 milligrams a day of atorvastatin in the case of this medication.

The increased risk of diabetes is also reflected in a 2017 study which looked at the link between the medication and the condition.

They researchers concluded: “In this population at high risk for diabetes, we observed significantly higher rates of diabetes with statin therapy in all three treatment groups.

“Confounding by indication for statin use does not appear to explain this relationship. The effect of statins to increase diabetes risk appears to extend to populations at high risk for diabetes.”

Does this mean everyone who takes statins will get diabetes?

No, Dr Marilyn Tan said this wasn’t the case and other factors can play a role in someone developing the condition.

One of the main risk factors for type 2 diabetes is an unhealthy diet and inactivity. The combination of the two can cause someone to become prediabetic.

It is for this reason that type 2 diabetes is often found in those who are obese and overweight.

Should someone become diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, they will normally have to begin the process of finding the right medicine for them.

The NHS say most patients will be offered metformin at first, and then potentially move onto insulin.

Depending on complications arising from type 2 diabetes, a range of medications may need to be taken.

Type 2 diabetes can increase someone’s risk of a range of conditions, including:
• Heart disease
• Stroke
• Nerve damage
• Foot problems
• Vision loss and blindness
• Miscarriage and stillbirth
• Kidney problems
• Sexual problems.

The NHS adds: “You should have your cholesterol (blood fats) and blood pressure checked at least once a year.

“Diabetes increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, so it’s important that high blood pressure and high cholesterol are spotted and treated early.

“Controlling your blood sugar level and having regular diabetes check-ups is the best way to lower your risk of complications.”

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