By Suzy Cohen, R.Ph.
How Statins Raise Your Insulin
Keeping things simple, you might imagine it like this: When you eat a meal that contains starches and sugar, some of the excess sugar goes to your liver, which then stores it away as cholesterol and triglycerides. Now stay with me -- when you have a statin on board, it's like a message to your liver saying, "No! Don't make any more cholesterol, please stop."
So your liver sends the sugar back OUT to your bloodstream. As a result, your blood sugar goes up.
In 2009, it was proven that statins could directly raise blood sugar, whether or not you have diabetes. Over 340,000 people were included before this conclusion was made. The people who did not have diabetes but took statins experienced a rise in blood glucose from 98 mg/dl to 105 mg/dl. Those who already had diabetes and also took statins experienced a rise from 102 mg/dl to 141 mg/dl.
After adjustments for age and medication use were considered, researchers concluded that both diabetic and non-diabetic statin users showed a statistically significant rise in blood sugar.
Why take all these risks, just to get the convenience of taking a pill instead of eating a better diet and exercising?
It's been scientifically discussed and even published in JAMA that eating a better diet could lower cholesterol as well as the statin drug lovastatin.
And of course, there are so many other benefits to eating a healthier diet that consists of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and lean meats. Besides feeling better and increasing lifespan, you can squeeze into those skinny jeans you're hiding in your closet.
Another way statins can affect your blood sugar is via their "drug mugging" effect. A drug mugger is my term, and the title of my newest book, which describes how a drug can rob your body's warehouse of a valuable nutrient. In the case of statins, they rob your body of two different nutrients, both of which are needed to maintain ideal blood sugar.
Two Important Nutrients Decimated by Statins
The first nutrient that is mugged is vitamin D. There have been mixed studies regarding the D-depletion effect of statins, but statins reduce your body's natural ability to create active vitamin D called 1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol, shortened to "calcitriol" when it is eventually converted to its active hormone form.
This happens because statins reduce cholesterol, and you need cholesterol to make vitamin D! It is the raw material that exposure to UVB from sunlight will convert to vitamin D.
It is well documented that D improves insulin resistance, so needless to say, when you take a drug mugger of vitamin D (like statins), then you increase your risk for diabetes.
More specifically, a 2004 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition determined that raising a person's serum vitamin D levels (from 25 to 75 nmol/l) could improve insulin sensitivity by a whopping 60 percent.
Compare that to the blockbuster diabetes drug metformin, one of our pharmaceutical gold-standards, which can dispose of blood sugar by a meager 13 percent according to the New England Journal of Medicine.
Now, statins also suppresses your natural coenzyme Q10— also called "ubiquinol" in its active form; it makes energy for every cell in your body, and it's produced mainly in your liver.
This powerful antioxidant just so happens to also play a role in maintaining blood glucose. When you deplete levels of CoQ10 by taking a drug mugger of it, like a statin drug, then you lose that benefit. You also raise your risk for heart failure, high blood pressure and heart disease as CoQ10 deficiencies can contribute to those conditions. A study by Hodgson et al, published in 2002 found that 200mg CoQ10 taken daily caused a 0.4 percent reduction in hemoglobin A1c.
Moreover, CoQ10 protects your body from oxidative stress, a strong contributing factor in the development of diabetes, metabolic syndrome and heart attacks. You want to make sure you have enough CoQ10 (or ubiquinol) on board to protect every cell in your body. The take home point is that statins annihilate this compound and you need it for good health.
In summary, if you take a statin medication and you've been told that you have diabetes, it may be drug-induced, and it's possible that it can be reversed over the course of time. However, you will have to eat right, exercise, and take supplements that help to lower your risk for heart disease naturally.