Could statins raise risk of diabetes?

THE National Healthcare Group (NHG) reported a 14 per cent increase in diabetes patients from 2010 to 2013 ("NHG data shows spike in diabetes patients"; June 17).

The report attributed the increase, particularly in the Malay and Indian populations, to dietary habits and lifestyle.

These factors notwithstanding, cholesterol-lowering statin drugs may be another factor the medical community needs to look into.

A new study from Finland suggests a strong correlation between statins and diabetes.

The findings were published on March 4 in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.

Cholesterol-lowering drugs seem to decrease insulin sensitivity and impair the ability of the pancreas to secrete insulin.

In the six-year study on almost 9,000 men, researchers found an almost 50 per cent increase in diabetes risk in the men who took statins, and the risk increased with the dosage of simvastatin and atorvastatin that was taken.

Many patients take medicine for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglycerides for years, before the onset of diabetes.

Could diabetes then be due to the effects of the statins?

Moreover, some studies conducted in the United States, Britain and Canada have indicated some correlations between statin use and cognitive functions like memory and learning.

The statins appeared to induce dementia-like behaviour in some users.

More Singaporeans are put on statins to protect their hearts, because of age, diet and lifestyle factors.

Should statin treatment be given for patients with borderline high cholesterol before considering other ways of lowering the cholesterol?

Ng Kim Yong (Mrs)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2015, with the headline 'Could statins raise risk of diabetes?'. Print Edition | Subscribe