A new study has found that statins, used to lower blood cholesterol levels, may reduce exercise benefits for overweight adults.
Statins rank among the best selling drugs in the world and are typically prescribed to people with obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome (a combination of excess body fat and/or high blood pressure, blood sugar, and/or cholesterol), explained Medical News Today. Statins are prescribed to reduce cholesterol as a means of preventing blood clots, heart attack, and stroke that could lead to death.
Drugs in the statin class are known to carry a risk of causing myopathy (severe muscle damage) and should be taken with caution and at the lowest possible effective dose to reduce the risks of these side effects. Now, research conducted at the University of Missouri (MU) revealed that simvastatin—sold under the brand Zocor—stalled any positive effects from exercise in obese and overweight adults, according to Medical News Today.
“Fitness has proven to be the most significant predictor of longevity and health because it protects people from a variety of chronic diseases,” John Thyfault, an associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at MU, told Medical News Today. “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,” he added.
Thyfault recommends that cardiologists closely review the risk-benefit profile of statins based on this new information about the drugs’ effects on exercise, the Medical News Today report indicated. “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,” he noted, according to Medical News Today.
The research team measured cardiorespiratory fitness in 37 previously sedentary, obese people, aged 25 to 59, and who were deemed to have a low fitness levels. Study participants followed the same exercise regimen on the MU campus for 12 weeks; 18 participants also took 40 mg of Zocor daily, said Medical News Today.
The research revealed that statins significantly impacted exercise outcomes with exercise-only participants experiencing an increase in cardiorespiratory fitness by an average of 10 percent. In the group prescribed statins, the increase was a mere 1.5 percent. Skeletal muscle mitochondrial content—this is where muscle cells turn oxygen into energy—decreased in the statin group by 4.5 percent, yet increased by 13 percent, considered a normal response following exercise training, in the exercise-only group, according to Medical News Today.
Meanwhile, we recently wrote that a BMJ article reviewed the connection between statin medications and kidney damage. The article reviewed data from over 2 million patient records from 1997 to 2008 that originated from Canadian provinces and United States and United Kingdom databases; the study looked at Zocor, Lipitor and Crestor (rosuvastatin). The team concluded that patients prescribed these high-potency statins exhibited an increased risk for hospitalization for acute kidney injury when compared to patients taking lower-potency statins, and urged physicians to consider this risk when thinking about patient treatment options in patients whose kidney injury risks persisted for at least two years.
We previously wrote that people who use statins may face a higher risk of developing age-related cataracts. According to another prior study, the association between statins and cataracts may be equal to the association with Type 2 diabetes, a known risk factor for age-relegated cataracts. This is significant because statin use is generally higher among Type 2 diabetics, compared to the general population.
Prior to that, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) warned that statins not only raise blood sugar levels, but they may cause memory loss, as well. Statin labels were updated to include information about these possible statin side effects.
Other analysis of previously conducted clinical trials also cast doubt on the efficacy of statin drugs, specifically Crestor, in the prevention of blood clots. According to a prior ScienceDaily report, nearly 30 previous trials of statin drugs found that they are barely effective at preventing blood clots, if at all.