statins help or harm

We have written on several occasions that statins are linked to diabetes. The most recent article was this one: “Statins Cause Diabetes: The Link Just Got Stronger!” Before that we wrote: “Statins and Diabetes | What Happens When Blood Sugar Rises?” Well, we have been severely chastised by one reader. He maintains that one statin, pravastatin (Pravachol), actually lowers blood sugar levels. He also insists that statins protect the brain and prevent dementia and that statins save lives! How good are the data?

Do Statins Protect the Brain?

Q. You have written that statin-type cholesterol-lowering drugs can cause diabetes. You included pravastatin in that list. Historically, it lowers your chances of developing diabetes by 30 percent!

For many people, statins will save their lives. It can also prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Please tell your readers the whole story.

A. For patients with heart disease statins can indeed make a difference. There is quite a bit of controversy, though, about the benefit of statins for people who have not been diagnosed with heart disease (JAMA Internal Medicine, Nov. 15, 2016). We encourage you to read this article. One of the co-authors is a highly regarded cardiologist and editor of JAMA Internal Medicine. Here is just one key observation from this article:

“Using the current data, the decision aid shows that of 100 people who take a statin for 5 years, only 2 of 100 will avoid a myocardial infarction [heart attack], and 98 of the 100 will not experience any benefit. There will be no mortality benefit for any of the 100 people taking the medicine every day for 5 years. At the same time, 5 to 20 of the 100 will experience muscle aches, weakness, fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, and increased risk of diabetes.”

If you would like to read this article, here is a link to:

“Doctors Battle Over High Cholesterol and Blood Pressure”

Doctors Battle Over High Cholesterol and Blood Pressure

What About Pravastatin and Lower Blood Sugar?

We understand why you might think pravastatin (Pravachol) might be different than other statins when it comes to diabetes. An old study published in the journal Circulation (Jan. 23, 2001) reported that pravastatin reduced the risk of diabetes by 30 percent. 

A new study, however, reports that “use of statins was associated with a 38 percent higher risk of incident type 2 diabetes” (British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, March 5, 2019).  The authors did not find a difference between various statins when it came to the likelihood of developing diabetes.

You can read our in-depth analysis of this recent research at this link:

Will Statins Protect the Brain?

As for preventing Alzheimer’s disease, that too has been controversial. A review of the available literature (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Jan. 4, 2016) found no credible evidence that statins “prevent cognitive decline or dementia.” 

Statin enthusiasts believed that statins protect the brain because of an anti-inflammatory mechanism. But prior research also questioned this theory. A trial of 640 older people with moderate Alzheimer’s disease were randomly assigned to receive either atorvastatin or placebo. The group getting the statin were no better than those on placebo (Neurology, March 23, 2010). 

A prior Cochrane analysis also asked whether statins protect the brain (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, April 15, 2009). Here is what the authors concluded:

“There is good evidence from RCTs that statins given in late life to individuals at risk of vascular disease have no effect in preventing AD or dementia. Biologically it seems feasible that statins could prevent dementia due to their role in cholesterol reduction and initial evidence from observational studies was very promising. Indication bias may have been a factor in these studies however and the evidence from subsequent RCTs has been negative.”

What is Your Experience with Statins?

Have you found that statins protect the brain? Do they lower blood sugar levels? Please share your story in the comment section below.

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  1. Pam

    My cholesterol was close to 300 when I went on statins. Lipitor gave me heart palpitations so I switched to generic Crestor a few years ago. I have no side effects. My total cholesterol is now 180. My blood sugar is fine and I have no muscle problems.

    As far as whether statins effect Alzheimer, they haven’t found anything that does much once a person actually has Alzheimer’s so I’m not surprised that giving statins to patients with moderate Alzheimer had no effect.

    Perhaps it might help prevent it, or maybe not. They need to do a long term study of that.

  2. Janice
    Corsicana, TX

    Statins did great harm to my husbands brain, as confirmed by a noted neurologist. When I convinced our Doctor to let him stop, his memory returned to normal, very quickly, He put him on another, and went right back to the same problem. ‘when we just said “No”, and stopped it, it didn’t return to normal.
    We went to the neurologist who said that it is now realized that in some persons the brain is damaged, reasons not known, nor what to do. He tried the early alz. drugs which didn’t help. Now, many years later, and badly declining mental faculties, it has been discovered he has hydrocephalus. A lumbar drain didn’t help risk putting a shunt into his 81 year old brain. At least we know what statins caused.

  3. Elizabeth
    Flower Mound, TX

    My husband, aged 70, had a mild heart attack nine months ago and had to have triple bypass surgery. He was slim, never smoked, drank only an occasional beer, danced on a regular basis, ate fairly well with some incidences of hamburgers, sodas, and ice cream to his discredit, but had no diabetes and only slightly elevated blood pressure, for which he took a medication that worked well. He had not been on a statin up to this point. The doctor said his age (70) and very low HDL (35) caused the heart attack.

    He is now on a low dose statin (Lipitor) and is experiencing higher blood sugar on his latest lab report (103) and cramping in his fingers, toes, and calves. The doctor has put him on CoQ10 and is having him drink more water. All this to say, we are watching the blood sugar and addressing the cramping, but he is not about to go off his statin, which has really helped his HDL. If he had been on a statin years ago to address the low HDL, this heart attack would probably have never happened.

  4. Georgeann

    I developed pancreatitis from statins! Absolutely horrible case of chronic diarrhea, cramps, general malaise for nearly three years. All symptoms gone 6 weeks after stopping. After horrible invasive gastric tests and prescription of outrageously expensive pig enzymes (Zenpep) which Medicare would not cover because I have fallen into the “doughnut hole” I went back to researching my meds side-effects. Found statin side effect of pancreatitis on WebMD for which I shall be forever grateful.

  5. Laurie
    Waseca Minnesota

    I’m on Lipitor and I worry every day that it is causing harm to me. I’m going to stop this horrible medication. Go on every other day for a while and then stop. Doctors act like this is some kind of miracle medication and it’s not. Big Pharma wants Doctors to keep prescribing it because it’s all about the money you know!!!

  6. Mary

    The only thing statin drugs improve is the income of the pharmaceutical companies.
    Want diabetes & higher chances of Alzheimer’s? Yes, take your expensive drug that may shorten your life.

  7. Charles
    Sandy Springs. GA

    AND when the damage is severe where do you turn? My doctor just wouldn’t listen to my complaints.

    Eighteen months after starting Lipitor, my legs got weaker and weaker and my doctor said that as I was getting older I should expect symptoms of old age. Only when I complained about a “tingle” around the toes of my right foot did he recommend I see a neurologist thinking it was nerve related. When the neurologist learned I was taking Lipitor he told me to stop immediately. Too late. The weakness is myopathy and “tingle” is CIDP, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy and both are progressive.

    Even when my doctor learned that I was diagnosed as having neuropathy, he wanted me to continue. Also said, “Well, the number of people who have this is insignificant.” So, I am insignificant. I have spent fifteen years seeking a way to reverse this drug related disorder. I’ve been involved in five studies and traveled from one end of this country to the other visiting doctors.

    Doctors like Golomb, Graveline, etc. have made it clear the dangers statins present and yet the FDA hesitates to act and doctors still prescribe. IF YOU ARE DAMAGED, don’t expect recourse; Pfizer alone has over 300 in-house attorneys and they will drag a suit out for years. As for statin claims, most are disputed and as for heart issues, there are better options. It is not worth the risk, do not take statins, they are a mycotoxin.

    I was part of a group (Golomb and Graveline included) who met in Washington with the Senate Finance Committee, explaining to them the dangers of such an action (widespread dissemination of statins). It’s all about money.

  8. Nell morgan

    It was downhill with all kinds of side effects for my husband when his mild dose of statins was increased. This lead to muscle weakness, type 2 diabetis, depression and etc and etc. With the appearance of new problems another prescription was added. After his death I checked on all the side affects of each prescription. Each had similar effects. Sad that though he may have died from the result of a problem operation but it is sad to think his remaining years could not have been free from all the sides.

  9. Jane

    It’s difficult to find any data you can trust. One thing I know for certain is MONEY talks, loudly, and whoever has the money decides what’s said. It behooves one to do continual seeking of the latest and rely on sources not receiving funds from big pharma like People’s Pharmacy or the Chochrane Collaboration. When the end goal is profits and happy shareholders, I have serious doubts about accurate reporting of unbiased research.

  10. George C

    I have no doubt that Pravastatin has caused my blood sugar levels to rise. My heart appreciates the lower cholesterol with less angina, but my muscles do ache more and my blood sugar levels are elevated. I’ve been on Pravastatin for 7 years and some trial & error dosing adjustments over time had definitely raised & lowered my blood sugar levels as me and my doctor looked for the best compromise based on 3 month blood testing.

  11. Kara

    Wow Chris! That’s an amazing story. I’m so glad that you’re better. And so horrified that none of the many doctors even considered the possibility of the statins being the cause. Thank you for writing that here. I’ve been debating going on statins and your story makes a strong case for not doing that. All the best to you.

  12. Pat

    High statin use for many years caused me to start having memory issues, which the doctors either did not know, or refused to admit.

  13. Neil
    Pearl City, IL

    I was prescribed simvastatin in ’08 and took it until early ’13. During this time I had muscle aches and joint aches for no apparent reason. During this time my blood sugar reached pre-diabetes levels. After reading that statins may cause early onset dementia, and knowing that I was demented enough already, I asked my Dr. for a non-statin drug to control cholesterol. I forget what he prescribed but it was over $300 dollars for a 30-day supply. I handed the pill bottle back to the pharmacist and left the drug store.

    I had heard about a diet called the 5/2 fasting diet, and I started that. I have been doing that diet since Aug. ’13, and my blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and tri-glycerides are all within acceptable levels. My weight, which used to fluctuate between 195 and 200 pounds, has been fluctuating between 165 and 170. I lost 40 pounds and kept it off. I am 66 yrs. old and take no meds other than a multi-vitamin and a baby aspirin daily. I benefited from stopping those meds and eating right.

  14. Larry
    Orlando, Fl.

    In the process of receiving five stents and surviving two heart attacks during the past five years, I have been forced to consult five different cardiologists, in a search for answers to my questions pertaining to cardio care and prevention of more attacks.

    There are things that medical science knows, and things that it doesn’t know, and things that it doesn’t know that it doesn’t know. Surely, traditional medical science is plagued with what it doesn’t know, that it doesn’t know !

    The fourth Cardiologist I quit using told me that if I wanted to stay on the planet, I had to take Rosuvastatin. Regrettably, I obeyed him. Six months later my short term memory had degenerated to the point that through out the day, I would find myself entering a room, but unable to determine the reason I had gone there. It had progressed to the point, it became necessary for me to carry a pen and paper with my instructions.

    Fortunately I now have a Cardiologist who suggested that I take a “Statin Holiday.”
    Within a week I noticed a major improvement. Also, while taking Rosuvastatin my blood sugar level of 5.1 has remained the same for the past seven years, enough proof to me that statins did not lower my blood sugar.

    Understanding that, while approaching my seventy-sixth birth day, I know that surely I will die, sooner rather than later. As for me, I am thankful for those brave Cardiologists who buck the system by teaching the truth, and the British Medical Journal and other foreign entities whose studies are not funded by big pharma (whose motives appear to be simply keeping the big bucks rolling in).

  15. george m.
    West Virginia

    Everyone’s physiological make up is unique as are the variations of diet, exercise, and environmental exposure to toxins and pollutants. Such factors can cloud the best of studies. Throw in genetic factors and we can chase the results til the cows come home and are back in the field grazing again.

    The studies do offer great insight and improve our understanding of the interaction variations which reveal the benefits and side affects . This gives us best means for proper prescribing medications. If one person dies as a result of a treatment, yet thousands benefit successfully, we have to weigh that. Science is an ongoing quest for greater knowledge. We stumble many times along the way.

  16. Carolyn

    I can only attest to the fact that my blood sugar was raised, on average, 10 points by my taking Simvastatin. I have since discontinued all use of statins because I believe that the simvastatin was the cause of pain and deterioration in the muscles of my legs. I will find other ways to control my cholesterol.

  17. Clifford
    Chicago suburbs

    As I said in an earlier response to a question about experiences with statins, it seemed that Zocor really worsened my essential tremor–a neurological disorder that “runs” in my family. After going through that for a couple of years and eventually coming across a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal in which a substantial fraction of the space was given over to Zocor’s side effects, I refused to take it any more.

    After some “discussion” with my internist, I was switched to Zetia, an older cholesterol-lowering drug, which for me has done what was hoped for despite my doctor’s misgivings. Now, more than thirty years later, my essential tremor is still much less troublesome than it had been while on a statin. On the plus side I can carry a twelve- or twenty-four-pack of my favorite beverage from my car to the house with just my finger tips in the slot on the side of the carton, which was close to impossible while on Zocor. On the negative side I can make out and sign checks legibly.

  18. Prunie22

    Just 10 mg Crestor raises my numbers to pre-diabetic. And it makes my legs ache in the middle of the night. I reduced it to 5 mg now along with Zetia. I think all meds help with one thing but cause too many side effects.

  19. C

    If the brain needs cholesterol to function, how can a drug that lowers cholesterol and causes cognitive dysfunction ,all of a sudden help prevent Alzheimers? !

  20. Tom M

    I think this is nonsense. We have had millions of people gobbling up statins like they were candy over long periods and the rate for Alzheimer’s is still climbing. I’ll never take them and I will never trust Big Pharma. And I surely trust fewer and fewer studies and reviews because they are infiltrated by Big Pharma interests. The cure for most ailments is life style changes, more vitamins and minerals and other useful supplements…not more artificial drugs.

  21. Joseph M.
    Houston, TX

    I would like to “severely chastise” the reader who “severely chastised” you for your warnings about statins. I will go toe-to-toe with that dude, and I can promise you that he’d emerge tattered and defeated when I get through with him. Statins may work wonders for him, but for everyone I know – with one exception – they have caused immeasurable harm.
    I truly wish there were a class action suit I could join b/c I’m infuriated with how statins have destroyed my leg muscles and the quality of my life without any significant impact to my lipid numbers whatsoever.

    On a calmer note, I believe that your reader’s experience versus my experience simply underlines a truth: there may be no one solution for everyone. In life, there are few absolutes. We’re trying to find one cure for cancer. One cure for Alzheimer’s. One diet that works for everyone. As weight-loss programs have proven, there is no one solution for everyone, and some can cause significant damage for many others: the all-meat Paleo diet comes to mind.

    I recently voiced my opinion to my doctor about statins. Faced with my evidence, he neither agreed nor disagreed with my diatribe against statins…for me. After he left the examining room, his P.A. piped up: “Stand your ground. The negative effects of statins are a dirty little secret here. . .” Direct quote.

    PLEASE continue to tell the truth about statins regardless of those who “severely chastises” because there are thousands of us who would “severely chastise” the chastiser…to say nothing of how we would tear into a representative of Big Pharma!

    Thank you for your continuing research and for voicing the truth!

  22. Michael
    NW Washington

    If Chris W’s “3rd year med student” is in practice anywhere now, I’d sure like to have her as my primary physician.

  23. patty
    Raleigh nc

    Daily use of crestor lead to borderline high sugar levels and severe muscle pain and fatigue… discontinued statin and bith conditions gradually improved… on praulent now… numbers good, side effects low… we’ll see

  24. LizA

    Last year I was put on a statin because the doctors thought I had a TIA. My cholesterol was at 210 so it seemed like a good idea. I had nothing but stomach aches, pains, bloating, diarrhea, and an all over feeling of being ill. I often have stomach issues with medicines but this was the worse. I stopped taking the medicine but when I saw my doctor, I was told to go back on it in a week and try taking a half pill. I did, but within a day, I was getting sick all over again. I even tried a quarter of the pill with no success. I feel that these medicines are very strong and not meant for everyone.

  25. Carl
    New Orleans

    I had a heart stent at 60 due to blockage. I didn’t have a heart attack. I was put on atorvastatin. I took it for about 3 years and began having severe weakness, muscle aching, and cognitive dysfunction. It became debilitating. They played around with different statins and doses with me finally ending up with the lowest dose possible. Even with that, I still had symptoms. On my own I stopped taking the statins. Within several days all the symptoms stopped. My total cholesterol is usually 175 with my HDL being over 60 and LDL hovering slightly below 100. I am 70 now, and have no intention of ever going back on statins. The quality of life for me was severely compromised by them.

  26. Mary

    After I started statins in 97, I went downhill fast…had a lot of problems with muscles and just hurt all over. Only took for a short time but the damage was done. Took more in 2007 and shortly after, came down with Diabetes. I have a family history with Diabetes but think it was brought on by statins. My health will never be the same.

  27. Don

    After a mild heart attack three years ago at 60, I keep hearing from my cardiologist that taking my statin will help my cholesterol develop and maintain a strong cap that will be less susceptible to rupture and clot formation. We’ve worked our way down from an initial prescription of 10 mg of rosuvastatin to 2.5 mg daily. This easily keeps my cholesterol in the desirable range, but I still worry about other effects. For example, I now have an aortic valve murmur that I didn’t have even last year. Could that be related to the statin? I also don’t seem to have the energy that I used to in spite of walking 20 miles a week.

  28. Dagny
    Philadelphia, PA

    I feel so sorry for Chris W., above. I was put on Lipitor in the early 2000s for a cholesterol level that was only borderline “high” and ended up in a suicidal depression that required hospitalization. My upper arm muscles deteriorated to the point that my rotator cuffs wore away, and I am now handicapped in that I can only raise my extended left arm to waist level, and the right to slightly below shoulder level. My cholesterol level was at 134 at that point, had been for several years, and I kept telling my doctor that I thought it was too low, but she thought it was great.

    She also ignored my complaints about arm pain because my job required near-constant use of a laptop computer, and she *assumed* the pain was from tendonitis but didn’t run any tests. Despite all of the 4AM blood tests in the hospital, no one noticed the too-low cholesterol level, and I was put on a truckload of antidepressants and benzos. I lost three and a half years of my life to recovering from a too-fast withdrawal from Lexapro, and I still go through a rebound reaction (depression, irritability) if I take even a tiny (.25 mg.) dose of Lorazepam (Ativan) for two or three days in a row.

    I can’t drink alcohol at all because the benzo has somehow changed my metabolism. I ran into the same problem of doctors in denial about the bad effects of statins, and my doctor is still in denial about the harm Lipitor did to me. How can they be so dense? There’s a tremendous amount of research about the harmful effects of statins. The only doctor who acknowledged that Lipitor was likely responsible for my damaged arms and shoulders was the orthopedic surgeon I saw to find out if anything could be done surgically. (Not). I shudder when I come across ads for statins that encourage people to get their cholesterol down to 100. That’s going to do horrendous damage to a lot of people, but then I guess that way even more profits will go to the pharmaceutical companies for more medical treatment and more prescriptions. Cynical? Oh, yes.

  29. Chris W.
    Wausau, WI

    Being that I was given Lipitor in 1998 to prevent a heart attack, and 3.5 years later was hospitalized for 28 days, akin to a 95 year old with advanced Alzheimer’s disease, I could not walk, nor speak coherently, I did not know my wife, nor my 2 year old son, nor my parents, siblings, friends or family. I had an MRI scan during the prior 3-4 weeks before my hospital stay, The MRI revealed “Inumerable lesions scattered throughout the grey matter and even in the corpus callosum and in the brainstem. ”

    I was evaluated by several med students, residents, interns as well as attending physicians who all came up with fantastical diagnosis’, and only 1, a 3rd year med student suggested the Statin; she was shut down abruptly and it was never mentioned again.

    I was awaiting a nursing home bed to become available, when a visiting professor from Johns Hopkins was asked to evaluate me, and when he did, he started me on a Mitochondrial Cockatail (several Vitamins, Amino Acids and CoQ10) and within 24 hours of my first dose, I was able to answer simple questions, walk with assistance, and verbalize the need to use the restroom instead of wetting or soiling myself as I had done each day since admission.

    Several days later, I was discharged home with aggressive rehab therapies. All but one physician I’ve discussed my illness with have adamantly refused to consider the possibility that my illness/disability could have anything to do with my Lipitor use.

    Fortunately about 1 month after I was discharged on Nov 7 2002, my wife and I watched Dr Beatrice Golomb of the UCSD Statin Effects Study, discuss the study with Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America, after which I had my brain and muscle biopsy results , Radiology tests, Lumbar Punctures and all records sent to UCSD and enrolled in the study. When the Study finished, Dr Golomb called me at home and informed me that based on the research, and the several others in the study with similar courses, she referred our cases to Dr Doug Wallace PhD of UC Irvine, who she referred to as one of the top Mitochondrial Disease Experts in the nation, who opined it as my use of Lipitor was the causal contributor to the Mitochondrial DNA mutations seen on electron microscopy of my brain biopsy.

    As a former Critical Care RN who attended his share of pharmaceutical conferences, NONE OF this was ever mentioned in any literature I had ever been privy to.

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