The study, reported online April 28, 2015, in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, confirms past findings on the link between the widely prescribed drugs and diabetes risk. But it is among the first to show the connection in a relatively healthy group of people. The study included only people who at baseline were free of heart disease, diabetes, and other severe chronic disease.
"In our study, statin use was associated with a significantly higher risk of new-onset diabetes, even in a very healthy population," says lead author Dr. Ishak Mansi. "The risk of diabetes with statins has been known, but up until now it was thought that this might be due to the fact that people who were prescribed statins had greater medical risks to begin with."
Mansi is a physician-researcher with the VA North Texas Health System and the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas.
The higher the dose, the greater the risk
In the study, statin use was also associated with a "very high risk of diabetes complications," says Mansi. "This was never shown before." Among 3,351 pairs of similar patients—part of the overall study group—those patients on statins were 250 percent more likely than their non-statin-using counterparts to develop diabetes with complications.
Statin users were also 14 percent more likely to become overweight or obese after being on the drugs.
Mansi points out that other studies have arrived at a similar finding through different research methods.
The study also found that the higher the dose of any of the statins, the greater the risk of diabetes, diabetes complications, and obesity.