Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced through a formal advisory paper that cholesterol-lowering drugs, including statins, will be forced to add warning labels pertaining to the cholesterol link to diabetes and blood sugar. Studies have proven increases in blood sugar levels, and memory loss and confusion directly attributable to ingesting statins such as atorvastatin or Lipitor, simvastatin or Zocor, and rosuvastatin or Crestor; the revised labeling and warnings also apply to certain prescription medications that blend statins with niacin.
The brief issued by the FDA noted that memory loss and confusion had previously been reported with statin use, but thought to be relatively insignificant; however, long-term study has suggested more serious implications. In a litigious society, drug companies make every effort to protect themselves from individual and class-action lawsuits, so it is key to understand that the pharmaceutical manufacturers err on the side of caution; when a potentially troublesome side-effect shows repeated appearance, they must parry to protect their own interests. That is a significant part of this new warning caveat, but in this case, since it was issued by the FDA and not “big pharma” it is a condition to which the drug companies must adhere.
The fact is that statin-based cholesterol lowering drugs assuredly do more good than harm for the vast majority of patients, and the alternative, not ingesting these medications, involves a probably much greater jeopardy from high cholesterol levels.
The FDA is clear about the value of statins in lowering cholesterol levels and reducing the corresponding risk of heart disease and stroke. They work, simply put. Statins, together with niacin-based medications, have shown excellent effectiveness in doing exactly what they are designed to do: lower LDL cholesterol levels in the blood. Knowledge of the benefits versus the potential side-effects, which vary from person to person, and medication dosage amount, helps patients and their physicians make educated, informed and sensible decisions regarding treatment of high cholesterol levels.
In general, medications such as statins are only introduced to the treatment program for high cholesterol when other solutions, such as diet improvements, lifestyle changes like weight loss and quitting smoking, and increased exercise have failed, and the individual is at risk of heart disease. It always makes the most sense to attempt to regulate cholesterol to healthy levels by natural means. All medications, even over-the-counter headache remedies, carry some sort of side-effect. It’s optimal practice to avoid taking any medications, if possible.
Connecting Cholesterol Medications and High Blood Sugar
High blood sugar levels, or hyperglycemia (excessive glucose in the blood plasma) can and often does lead to diabetes, a complex disease that affects multiple elements of your health, sometimes resulting in premature death. Hyperglycemia, even before it manifests to be come diabetes, can cause damage to the eyes, and internal organs. Any diabetic will tell you that their entire life revolves around the management of diabetes. It’s incurable, albeit treatable, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to avoid it if possible. One of the greatest negative outcomes of diabetes is, just like high cholesterol levels, starkly increased risk of heart disease and stroke. This is the link that makes the FDA insist on warnings for statin-based medications.
But it’s not all bad news. According to a study undertaken at Berlin’s Charite University Medical Centre, and published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, statins tend to reduce the chance of depression developing in those who take the drug for lowering cholesterol levels. The reasoning is that statins work on cholesterol levels by freeing the blood flow to move better through the brain, and this could result in enhanced positive mental states. Still, a better mood is not the reason for taking statins; it simply goes to show that not all side-effects are negative.
One statement that remains unresolved is that ingesting statins actually causes diabetes. Research into this thus-far unsubstantiated claim continues, and while there is some indication that blood sugar can be affected by statin use, there are so many contributing factors to an individual potentially becoming diabetic that this appears to be fairly low on the risk list. Factors such as heredity (if you have one parent with diabetes, your chances are 50% of developing it, too), being seriously overweight or obese, and eating a diet far too high in fats and sugars, are intrinsically tied to the onset of Type 2 diabetes.
A study involving 345,417 subjects, entitled, “Effect of statins on fasting plasma glucose in diabetic and non-diabetic patients”, was published in the Journal of Investigative Medicine in 2009, and found in conclusion:
“Statin use is associated with a rise of FPG in patients with and without diabetes. This relationship between statin use and rise in FPG is independent of age and use of aspirin, beta-blockers, and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors.”
To read the complete study and abstract, please visit: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19188844.
The upside to this news is that once statins are withdrawn, their effects on blood sugar vanish in short order. This is not to suggest that if you are taking any of the aforementioned cholesterol-lowering drugs that you should stop. On the contrary, never make any form of adjustment to your prescription medications without first consulting your doctor. If you are concerned about the side-effects of statins, then speak with your family physician, and he or she can help you weigh the balance of the good the drug is doing you versus the risk of side-effects.