Free Ride? Statin Users Are Consuming More Calories
April 28, 2014

Statin Use Now Associated With Higher Calorie And Fat Intake

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

Statins are drugs designed to lower cholesterol in individuals at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, and a new study has suggests that these drugs are giving people a false sense of security.

According to the study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, individuals taking statins between 2009 and 2010 were consuming more calories and fat compared to those who used statins 10 years earlier.

"We believe that this is the first major study to show that people on statins eat more calories and fat than people on those medications did a decade earlier," study author Takehiro Sugiyama, who conducted the research as a visiting scholar at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, said in a recent statement. "Statins are used by about one-sixth of adults. We may need to reemphasize the importance of dietary modification for those who are taking these medications, now that obesity and diabetes are important problems in society."

To reach their conclusion, the scientists used information from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to assess fat and caloric intake among statin consumers and non-users in 1999-2000 and 2009-10. They discovered that calorie consumption among statin users had increased by 9.6 percent over that ten-year span and that fat intake had risen by 14.4 percent. In comparison, caloric and fat consumption by non-statin users did not shift noticeably during the same decade.

Statin users consumed approximately 180 kilogram calories (kcal) less daily and 9 grams of fat less daily than non-users in 1999-2000. However after a decade of increases, there wasn't a difference in caloric and fat intake between the two groups in 2009-10.

The changes may be caused by the sense from statin users that they don't feel the need to cut their caloric and fat intake or to shed weight the way statin users did a decade ago, said Sugiyama. He suggested that physicians today may be more prone to prescribe the drugs for patients who consume and weigh more.

The study team admitted that were not able to consider the different dietary intake trends, but said a longitudinal study would answer this question.

"Regardless of the mechanism, there are problems, because 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," Sugiyama said. "Being overweight also increases the risk of diabetes and hypertension, which also are risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

"Ethical considerations should be included in the discussion,” 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."