Statins are among the top prescription medications prescribed in the United States and worldwide. As a matter of fact, it seems like this medication is being handed out like candy, and like candy, this drug appears to raise the risk of prediabetes.
Despite their widespread use, controversy continues to stir around these medications. Controversy that is being instigated primarily by those in the know. What I have seen is that the general public—the patients taking these medications— usually are not aware of the potential side effects of these medications, exactly why they need them, or what the alternatives are to being placed on one of these drugs. Well let me tell you a little secret, the alternatives involve what is preached here at Nutrientology.
Data is starting to accumulate on the side effects of statins. One potential side effect is an apparent dose-dependent association between statin use and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
A recent analysis of most major statin trials involving more than 90,000 participants confirmed that statin therapy was associated with a 9% increased risk of developing diabetes, and a 12% increased risk of developing diabetes on high dose statin therapy.
The authors concluded that the benefits of statin therapy outweigh the risk of developing diabetes because for every three people that were protected from a major cardiovascular event (heart attack, for example) only one person developed diabetes.
They are not sure why this diabetes risk exists, but they believe it may have something to do with statins negatively effecting insulin signaling. Insulin is an extremely important hormone. We talk about it a lot at Nutrientology because it is so central to a healthy metabolism.
Insulin is involved in carbohydrate and fat metabolism. If it is not able to function properly you will begin to develop the components of metabolic syndrome: prediabetes, high blood pressure, increased body fat, and an alteration of healthy cholesterol factors.
The authors state that the apparent benefit of statin use outweighs the risk of not taking this medication, but what about statin use when compared to proper nutrition, exercise and lifestyle? Many analyses of medical benefits involve this sort of dualism or either-or approach. I think part of the reason is that patients are often quite set in their ways, and I believe many doctors would like to offer patients more choices, but they know that in reality many of the options will not be considered.
The fact that you are reading this blog shows that you are someone that is open to options, and willing to implement them. Ask your doctor about this. Most will be pleasantly surprised that they have a motivated patient that they don’t have to just put on another pill.
If you have an elevated total cholesterol there are foods that can positively impact the levels of the different forms of cholesterol in your blood. For people with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes metabolic syndrome these include:
- Vegetables because of the fiber they contain.
- Nuts. Including almonds, walnuts, and pecans. Nuts have been shown to lower LDL (but perhaps not in people that are overweight. Nuts have also been shown to improve HDL-cholesterol levels and other markers of a healthy metabolism.
- Foods fortified with sterols and stanols. Many foods are being fortified with these compounds. I am a bit skeptical about this. These products are also available as supplements. Plant sterols or stanols can lower LDL cholesterol for some people more than others.
- A soluble fiber supplement such as psyllium.
- Fish and/or Omega-3 EPA/DHA supplement.
And in limited amounts because of their carbohydrate (sugar) content:
- Apples, grapes, strawberries, citrus fruits. These fruits are rich in a type of soluble fiber called pectin that has been shown to lower LDL-cholesterol.
Current nutrition guidelines recommend getting about 25 to 35 grams of fiber per day.