There are so many things we could talk about regarding the lipid hypothesis of heart disease and the use of chemicals to reduce blood cholesterol. So many things that I am just going to report the facts of this latest study on statin drugs:
1. In the study population (approximately 153,000 post-menopausal women), there was a 48 percent increased risk of type-2 diabetes from the use of statins. This is after controlling for several possibly complicating factors (the uncorrected rate was 71 percent).
2. This result applies to all statin drugs across the board (i.e., "class effect").
3. This result was not dependent on dose. Small doses were just as implicated as large doses. This is not clear in the linked article but was pointed out by Dr. JoAnn Manson, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital.
4. The study authors suggest making lifestyle changes before resorting to the use of statin drugs to lower cholesterol.
If you remember, it was not long ago that some researchers were calling for statins to be added to the water supply, completely ignoring the other side effects we know derive from their use (muscle pain and damage, liver damage, digestive problems). Anecdotally, there are many other side effects we might add.
Anyone interested in learning more about the actual science behind the lipid hypothesis of heart disease should start with the book, The Cholesterol Myths, by Uffe Ravnskov. The paperback is recently available after several years of being nearly impossible to find (a hardback copy on Amazon is listed for $499). It's an older book, but it examines the original studies on which the lipid hypothesis rests (Framingham, etc.) and is a good background for examining more recent evidence.
Among Ravnskov's findings? No one over the age of 48 should start lowering their cholesterol chemically. It's associated with all sorts of problems, including increased suicide and cancer rates. It's complicated why if you're over 48 and have not already had a cholesterol problem medicated you should not start, but it speaks to the fact that not everyone is the same, not everyone with heart disease is the same, not everyone with high cholesterol is the same and not everyone who has had a heart attack is the same. Therefore, we should not automatically treat all of these people with the same drugs.
I was just speaking to someone this weekend who had a heart attack recently. He is young and physically strong and his cholesterol was low before the heart attack. But they put him on lipid-lowering drugs anyway, and now his lipid profile is low. (Is that possible, you ask? Of course! Cholesterol is important to a healthy, functioning system.)
Perhaps I'll post a summary of Ravnskov's findings from The Cholesterol Myths....