Study shows that use of statins increases risk of developing diabetes by 46 percent

New research published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes) shows that use of statins is associated with a 46% increase in the risk of developing diabetes, even after adjustment for confounding factors. The study is by Professor Markku Laakso, Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Eastern Finland and Kuopio University Hospital, Finland, and colleagues.

Previous studies have suggested an increased risk (of varying levels) of developing diabetes associated with statin use. However, these studies have had limitations: study populations have been selective especially in statin trials which have included participants at high risk of cardiovascular disease. Therefore, the risk of diabetes in clinical trials is likely to differ from that in the general population. Very often in previous studies the diagnosis of diabetes has been based on self-reported diabetes or fasting glucose measurement, leading to an underestimation of the actual numbers of incident diabetes cases.

In this new study, the authors investigated the effects of statin treatment on the risk of and deterioration of blood sugar control in 8,749 non-diabetic men in a 6-year follow-up of the population-based Metabolic Syndrome in Men (METSIM) study, based in Kuopio, Finland. The authors also investigated the mechanisms of statin-induced diabetes by evaluating changes in insulin resistance and insulin secretion.

The participants, aged 45-73 years, were followed up for 5.9 years. New diabetes was diagnosed in 625 men with either an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT), an HbA1c level of 6.5% or higher, or anti-diabetic medication started during the follow-up. Insulin sensitivity and secretion were evaluated.

The researchers found that, after the results were adjusted for age, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, physical activity, smoking, alcohol intake, family history of diabetes, and beta-blocker and diuretic treatment, patients treated with statins were 46% more likely to develop diabetes than those not treated with statins.

The risk was dose-dependent for simvastatin and atorvastatin. Statin treatment significantly increased 2-h glucose (2hPG) at follow-up, with a nominally significant increase in fasting glucose (FPG). Insulin sensitivity was decreased by 24% and insulin secretion by 12% in individuals on statin treatment.

Furthermore, decreases in insulin sensitivity and insulin secretion were dose-dependent for simvastatin and atorvastatin. And, after adjustment for all the confounders mentioned above, high-dose simvastatin was associated with a 44% increased risk of developing diabetes , while for low-dose simvastatin the increased risk was 28% and for high-dose atorvastatin the increased risk was 37%. Overall, 29% of participants were taking simvastatin, while 53% were taking atorvastatin.

The authors say "The association of statin use with increased risk of developing diabetes is most likely directly related to decreasing both and secretion."

Furthermore, they stress that while the size of the study makes their conclusions reliable, the study sample was Caucasian men, so the applicability to women or people of other ethnic origin cannot be confirmed without further research.

They conclude: "Statin therapy was associated with a 46% of type 2 diabetes after adjustment for confounding factors, suggesting a higher risk of in the general population than previously reported."

Explore further

Statin use is linked to increased risk of developing diabetes, warn researchers

Journal information: Diabetologia

Provided by Diabetologia
Citation: Study shows that use of statins increases risk of developing diabetes by 46 percent (2015, March 4) retrieved 18 July 2019 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Mar 04, 2015
Before jumping on the bandwagon I suggest reading the trial and deciding for yourself whether the adjustments they make are correct. People on statins are overweight , usually do not exercise in any manner and are already on the road to being diabetic long before statins showed up. An article on this same page indicates an ignored glucose value correlates with risk of type 2 diabetes and this study did not adjust for that.

Mar 05, 2015
This article commits one of the serious and easily preventable sins of medical reporting: it reports only RELATIVE risk, not absolute risk or natural numbers at risk. By doing so, it dramatically inflates the appearance of risk and misleads its reading public.

Using only the numbers in this article, 625 new diabetics in 8749 patients followed during the study, with a 46% difference between the statin and non-statin groups, means that 370 statin-treated patients developed new diabetes and 254 non-statin-treated patients developed diabetes.

This means that 116 more patients developed diabetes in the ~ 4374 patients treated with statins than one would have expected, based on the frequency in the non-statin-treated group. This is the absolute risk: 116/4374. In other words, 2.7 additional patients in every group of 100 patients similar to the study group will develop diabetes. This is an absolute risk of 2.7%, much different in impact than the reported 46% relative risk.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more