Cholesterol Medicine Could Reduce Fitness Levels
May 16, 2013

Cholesterol Medicine Could Reduce Fitness Levels

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

When looking to decrease cholesterol levels, many doctors prescribe a treatment regimen of diet, exercise and a cholesterol lowering medicine. Researchers from the University of Missouri (Mizzou) have now found that statins, or drugs used to lower cholesterol, may diminish any good done by exercise in obese adults. The researchers looked at one statin in particular, simvastin, better known as “Zocor” in their study. The researchers say this work is important because statins are the most widely prescribed drug in the world and are often given to obese or diabetic patients to help regulate their cholesterol levels.

“Fitness has proven to be the most significant predictor of longevity and health because it protects people from a variety of chronic diseases,” explained John Thyfault, an associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at Mizzou, in a press statement.

“Daily physical activity is needed to maintain or improve fitness, and thus improve health outcomes. However, if patients start exercising and taking statins at the same time, it seems that statins block the ability of exercise to improve their fitness levels.”

According to Thyfault, cardiologists have been prescribing statins to patients across a wide age range regardless of whether they have metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a combination of several medical disorders including obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar. Statins are also given to patients with Type 2 diabetes. With his research complete, Thyfault now suggests doctors carefully consider prescribing statins in patients who have also been advised to start an exercise program.

“Statins have only been used for about 15-20 years, so we don´t know what the long-term effects of statins will be on aerobic fitness and overall health,” Thyfault said.

“If the drugs cause complications with improving or maintaining fitness, not everyone should be prescribed statins.”

To research statins, Thyfault and colleagues asked a team of 37 obese patients aged 25-59 who reported a sedentary lifestyle and low fitness levels to participate in an exercise program for twelve weeks. While performing these exercises on the Mizzou campus, Thyfault and team measured the cardio and respiratory levels of these participants. Of the 37 volunteers, 18 were given 40 mg of simvastin a day.

According to the research results, statins “significantly affected” the participants outcomes. Those volunteers who only exercised without taking the drug saw their cardiorespiratory fitness improve by ten percent. The remaining 18 participants, however, saw a mere 1.5 percent increase in cardiorespiratory fitness. What´s more, Thyfault´s research suggests simvastin and other statins affect muscle tissue and prohibit muscle cells from turning oxygen into energy. The 18 participants taking the drug saw their skeletal muscle mitochondrial content, or oxygen turned into energy, decrease by 4.5 percent. The exercise-only group, on the other hand, saw their skeletal muscle mitochondrial content increase by 13 percent, which is on par for normal exercise regimens.

Thyfault wants to see further research performed on this drug to determine if lower doses of it has the same effect and whether it´s harmful to patients with Type 2 diabetes.