Statin Users May Be Packing on the Pounds

Cholesterol medication users consume more calories and weigh more than predecessors

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Statins, the popular cholesterol-lowering medications, may be lulling people into a false sense of security. Statin users seem to be less concerned about overeating and gaining weight.

As statin use has climbed over the course of 20 years, cholesterol levels have dropped. Still, heart disease prevalence remains unchanged.

A new study has found that statin users today may be eating more calories and fat than those who were taking statins a decade ago.

Scientists suspect that because statins are effective at lowering cholesterol, patients may care less about their eating habits and weight.

"Eat healthy and exercise regularly to lower heart disease risk. "

Takehiro Sugiyama, MD, from the Department of Public Health/Health Policy in the Graduate School of Medicine at the University of Tokyo and a visiting scholar in the division of general internal medicine and health services research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in California, led this research analyzing data regarding calories and fat intake among 27,886 adults over the course of 10 years starting in 1999/2000.

Both statin users and non-statin users had participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Dr. Sugiyama and his team observed that statin users increased their caloric intake by 9.6 percent over the decade, and their fat consumption jumped by 14.4 percent. Non-statin users, on the other hand, did not significantly change their caloric and fat intake over that same time period.

Based on these results, the authors concluded that more efforts need to be directed at statin users to emphasize the importance of eating healthily and dietary control.

“Eating more fat, especially saturated fat, will lead to higher cholesterol levels, which will undermine the effect of statins and may lead to unnecessary cost of medications," Dr. Sugiyama said in a press release. "Being overweight also increases the risk of diabetes and hypertension, which also are risk factors for heart disease and stroke.”

He added, “We believe that when physicians prescribe statins, the goal is to decrease patients' cardiovascular risks that cannot be achieved without medications, not to empower them to put butter on steaks."

The use of statins (including include Crestor, Lescol, Lipitor, Mevacor, Pravachol and Zocor) among US adults age 45 or older has risen ten-fold, while serum total cholesterol (a major risk factor for heart disease) has decreased by 25 percent, according to statistics from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Heart disease rates, however, persist.

This study was published in April in JAMA Internal Medicine and presented at the annual meeting of the Society of General Internal Medicine. The research was supported by funding from the National Center for Global Health and Medicine, the Honjo International Scholarship Foundation and National Institutes of Health Grants.

Review Date: 
April 30, 2014
Last Updated:
May 1, 2014