The work has also fuelled concerns that statins, now recommended for up to half the adult population over 50 by government drug policy adviser the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, may be doing many patients more harm than good.
Doctors used to prescribe the drugs only to those who had a 30 per cent or greater risk of suffering a heart attack within a decade, but this was lowered to 20 per cent in 2005.
A 10-year plan has been introduced to reduce this further and include low-risk patients who have just a 10 per cent chance of a heart attack within a decade.
Nice believes this could save thousands of lives.
Other studies have shown a link between the cholesterol-lowering drugs and potentially disabling side effects including cataracts, diabetes, muscle pains, fatigue and memory loss.