Statins are, of course, the widely prescribed drugs like atorvastatin, pitivastatin, and lovastatin to reduce total and LDL cholesterol. Clever marketing, statistical manipulation, and gullible doctors have helped make the statin franchise a multi-billion dollar (annual revenues) industry. The wildly overblown claims made by drug manufacturers have even prompted some of my colleagues to declare “We should put statins in drinking water.” A more powerful case for industry brainwashing on physician behavior cannot be made.
One unhappy facet of the statin drug conversation is that, by taking a statin drug, the potential for developing type 2 diabetes increases substantially, around 30% (10-45%, depending on study, drug and population examined). Of course, every study revealing this association ends with a comment like “the reduction in cardiovascular events with statin treatment outweighs the risk associated with development of new diabetes mellitus,” as they have also drunk the Kool-Aid from Big Pharma claiming that statins reduce cardiovascular events by 36-55%, even though the real value is really around 1% in high-risk populations, far less in low-risk populations.
But the reasons to account for such an increase in insulin resistance and thereby type 2 diabetes has not been clear—until recently. We now have experimental evidence that statins provoke profound changes in intestinal microbiome composition, including:
- Bacterial species diversity is reduced—Recall that greater species diversity is a hallmark of health, while reduced species diversity is associated with poor health (e.g., obesity, type 2 diabetes, autoimmune diseases, cancer).
- Reduction of butyrate-producing Clostridia species—Butyrate is a bacterial metabolite that mediates reductions in insulin resistance and blood sugar: greater butyrate, better blood sugar; less butyrate, worse blood sugar. (Interestingly, reductions of outright elimination of several Clostridia species is proving to be a pattern shared in several other disorders, such as autistic spectrum disease.)
- Intestinal butyrate was profoundly reduced—Beyond the reduction of Clostridia, other butyrate-producing species were reduced that thereby resulted in a 70% reduction in intestinal butyrate. Reduced butyrate means greater potential for intestinal inflammation, further changes in bowel flora composition, and loss of many metabolic benefits for the host, e.g., deterioration of insulin responses. Worse, blood levels of butyrate became undetectable, meaning the metabolic benefits of this fatty acid were wiped out by statins.
- Overall bowel flora composition came to resemble that seen in obesity and type 2 diabetes—including a reduction in Bacteroidetes and increase in Firmicutes.
Statins provide minimal to no benefit in the majority, yield far greater side-effects than manufacturers and doctors let on (muscle aches, for example, are far more common than doctors tell you, confusing muscle injury, or rhabdomyolysis, with muscle pain and weakness that is the rule, not the exception), increase potential for type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is not just a matter of high blood sugar; it is also a path that leads you closer and faster to coronary disease, peripheral vascular disease, retinal disease and blindness, kidney dysfunction and kidney failure, accelerated development of Alzheimer’s dementia, acceleration of aging, and shaving 8 years off your lifespan on average, as well as adding around $10,000 per year to your healthcare costs.
And now evidence points towards major disruptions of bowel flora and their metabolites that are metabolically disruptive.
Add this to the long list of mistakes made in conventional healthcare, including the mistakes made in “treating” cholesterol.