Men who regularly take statins to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular problems are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, a study published in the journal Diabetologica has found.
The study, performed by researchers from the University of East Finland, assessed over 8700 male patients who did not have diabetes over the course of six years. They found that participants who took statins such as atorvastin and simvastatin were 46% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes compared with men who did not use statins. Participants who took higher doses of statins were also more likely to develop the condition than those who used moderate or small doses.
Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: 'Previous studies have shown that statins, while protecting against a life-threatening heart attack or stroke, can increase a person's risk of type 2 diabetes. This study showed that it was patients taking a high-dose statin who were most at risk of developing type 2 diabetes and, importantly, many of the patients who developed diabetes already had risk factors for diabetes at the start of the study. This suggests that statins may act by unmasking a pre-existing tendency to diabetes.'
However, the study's authors noted some potential limitation of the research. The participants were exclusively male, so the link between statin use and risk of diabetes in women is unknown. Many of the participants were genetically predisposed to developing diabetes, so the effect of statins in those who are not at risk is also unknown.
Professor Weissberg added: 'It is important that people taking statins because of existing cardiovascular disease should continue to take them as the benefits will outweigh the risks. Healthy people taking statins to reduce their future risk of developing heart disease should be taking the lowest effective dose and should be doing all in their power to reduce their future risk of developing diabetes and CVD by not smoking, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight.'