Statins link to diabetes

23 September 2014        

Pack of statins/cholesterol/hypercholestemia tablets

Scientists we funded at University College London (UCL) and the University of Glasgow have discovered that taking statins is associated with a weight gain of around 240g (or half a pound).

This weight gain could explain the existing evidence linking statins with a slightly increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Statins, prescribed to reduce levels of cholesterol in the blood, have previously been linked to a slightly increased risk of diabetes. New research, we helped to fund, shows that there may be a link between how statins reduce cholesterol and small increases in blood sugar and weight gain.

Using information from clinical trials including nearly 130,000 patient volunteers, the researchers were able to spot a small increase in diabetes risk and the slight weight gain after patients took the medication for four years.

Benefits and risks

There are benefits and risks associated with all medicines and Professor Jeremy Pearson, our Associate Medical Director, said:

“Statins offer substantial protection from coronary heart disease. This rigorous and extensive study looked at why people taking them have a small increased risk of diabetes.

The benefits of taking statins far outweigh the small effect on diabetes risk.

Professor Jeremy Pearson
BHF Associate Medical Director

“The researchers found a direct relationship between how statins reduce cholesterol production and small increases in weight gain and blood sugar. This could explain the slightly increased risk of diabetes – a risk that could be reduced through lifestyle changes.

“This study should reassure people that the benefits of taking statins far outweigh the small effect on diabetes risk. But the results also reinforce that, alongside prescribed medication, taking steps to maintain a healthy weight is essential to stay heart healthy.”

The research has been published in The Lancet.

Researching diabetes and heart disease

We fund a range of research which is looking to explain the link between diabetes and heart disease, including funding scientists at the University of Bristol, who have already made breakthroughs in our understanding of the link between diabetes and heart disease.

Like all the studies we fund, this research relies on donations from the public.

Donate now to help us fund more life saving research.