The People's Perspective on Medicine

If Atorvastatin Triggers Diabetes What’s the Best Diabetes Diet?

Atorvastatin is one of the most prescribed statins. It clearly lowers LDL cholesterol. But if atorvastatin triggers diabetes what should people do?

Millions of people take statins: atorvastatin, fluvastatin, lovastatin, pravastatin, pitavastatin, simvastatin or rosuvastatin. What should someone do if atorvastatin triggers diabetes like the person below. He also wants to know the best diabetes diet. It can be helpful even for people without diabetes!

What if Atorvastatin Triggers Diabetes?

Q. I developed diabetes after taking atorvastatin and am now learning about the connection between the two. I have been told the diabetes is due to my weight, my diet or my genes. No doctor has ever suggested statins might be involved in causing diabetes.

What’s the best diet? I am confused about the high level of carbs in the recommendations I have been given.

A. Although statins can be helpful in controlling cholesterol, they increase the risk for developing diabetes (Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews, online May 24, 2019). This connection is no longer controversial. Yet many doctors have a hard time accepting it.

Murielle reports that atorvastatin triggers diabetes and lots of other side effects:

“Atorvastatin has almost killed me. My doctor told me that if I ‘didn’t take a statin that I would die.’ That is a very alarming statement.

“It only took a month before horrendous leg pain set in. I begged for blood testing, most notably A1C and creatinine, and discovered that I had become pre-diabetic and that my creatinine levels were at Stage II CKD [chronic kidney disease]. This horrified me. I live with someone who is an End Stage Renal Patient. This had NEVER been a health problem for me before.

“I asked my doctor(s) about this, and they acted like they had never heard of any of this. As it is 2019, I found that VERY difficult to believe. Rather than risk kidney failure and diabetes, I stopped taking atorvastatin, and (mercifully) my blood sugars and creatinine levels went back to normal. But my feet and legs went from bad to worse.

“Now I live with the fear that has been implanted in my brain that I could die from a stroke or heart attack at any minute. However, the possibility this MIGHT happen is still better than the absolutely certainty that I would develop CKD and Diabetes.

“I understand that not everyone reacts to medicines the same, but I really resent the push to ‘take this or you might die’ attitude of my doctors.”

Carol shares this story about simvastatin:

“I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes about eight years ago. There is no history of diabetes in my family, but I am slightly overweight and did maintain a horrible diet for myself. I don’t know what came first – the cart or the horse – but I was prescribed simvastatin around the same time, either to prevent the transition from pre-diabetes or to help control the newly diagnosed diabetes.

“Since that time, I have suffered from joint and muscle pain. After a two-week trial off the statin and replacing it with fenofibrate, the doctors have attributed my pain to arthritis. My x-rays do show the minimal beginnings arthritis.

“Recently my new doctor felt my cholesterol was a little high and I should go back on a statin. I did this for less than a week and the pain in my joints and muscles increased so dramatically that I could not sleep at night. The pain decreased slowly after I stopped the statin, but it has never gone away. I expect it never will.”

Tarun wonders if atorvastatin triggers diabetes:

“This week I learned that I have diabetes. My blood sugar level is 240 and A1C 9.6%. A year ago my blood sugar was 110 and A1c was below 5.5%. I have been taking atorvastatin for the last three years. I do not have heart disease but LDL is above 150. My doctor prescribed atorvastatin as a preventive drug. I wonder if atorvastatin turned me into a diabetic!” 

Sue thinks atorvastain triggers diabetes:

“I have taken many different statins for years, the last one being atorvastatin. A couple of years back I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes because of high blood sugar. That seemed strange at the time because there is no family history of diabetes. I began to realize that maybe I didn’t need certain drugs I was taking for so long. I asked my doctor if I could stop atorvastatin for awhile and see if I really needed it. 

“A few months later a blood test for cholesterol revealed it was no longer high. I also had two routine A1C tests for diabetes. The doctor proclaimed I no longer had diabetes!

“I really believe that the statins caused my blood sugar to rise, (this is a side effect of statin use). Be pro-active and test these drugs because your doctor doesn’t always have the capacity to think of everything, being so busy with many patients. Your doc is only human, like you!”

You can read more about statins and diabetes at this link:

Do Statins Cause Diabetes? Many MDs Wish It Weren’t So!

Is There a Best Diabetes Diet?

As for diet, recent recommendations to avoid sugary beverages are uncontroversial (Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, Oct. 2019).  According to a meta-analysis of 18 studies, following a low-carbohydrate diet can be helpful.

You can learn about foods that don’t raise blood sugar quickly in our Guide to Managing Diabetes. Anyone who would like a printed copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped (71 cents), self-addressed envelope:

  • Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. DM-11
  • P. O. Box 52027
  • Durham, NC 27717-2027.

Please share your own story about statins, diabetes and diet in the comment section below.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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I appreciate the statin info. But I am dismayed at the lack of relevance of the title to the actual article. Where is the diet info? Not even a broad outline! Just send us $3 and *then* you will get the diet info promised by the title! Not up to your usual standard, People’s Pharmacy!

I was diagnosed with diabetes 9 years ago and told I had to take a statin to lower my cholesterol level. I tried several different statins and fish oils. I finally refused to take any when joint pain started. It’s been 9 years. My cholesterol is still high. The last heart test I had showed my heart’s strength was in the top ten percentile. I do occasionally have joint pain but, in addition to diabetes, my family has a history of arthritis. Will never take a statin. I am a 72 year-old female.

I personally found these statins overprescribed. I lowered my cholesterol by only taking it 2 x a week.
Doc said my cholesterol was ok. He doesn’t know I only take 2.

If I take more all muscles hurt, and I get these hyperglycemia attacks.
I think people should experiment or ask doc if they can experiment with it.

Too many meds overprescribed.

I am sharing this story myself a physician on a statin. I never knew about this.

* Be nice, and don't over share. View comment policy^