A new heart-health warning for type 2 diabetics

Risky behavior

I’ve just learned a critical new detail about type 2 diabetes. I wish it were better news, but it’s a warning that shouldn’t be ignored.

At the same time, it’s also very important to be forewarned about some absurdly bad advice that comes with this news.

Early onset raises risk

Researchers at University College London analyzed nearly 30 years of data collected from more than 4,000 subjects enrolled in the British Regional Heart Study. Results show that heart disease risk is about TWICE as high in those who develop type 2 diabetes at a relatively young age (in their early 40s, for instance), compared to those who develop the disease in later years.

The lead researcher of the study told Internal Medicine News that patients and doctors need to be aggressive with heart disease risk reduction in younger type 2 diabetics.

You know what comes next, of course…

The researcher included cholesterol-lowering statin drugs as part of the aggressive protocol.

So this is where we have to ask the researchers: Would they recommend two or three soft drinks per day to those diabetics? Or maybe cake for lunch, and a couple of rum cocktails every evening?

No? So why would they recommend a drug that’s linked to type 2 diabetes development?

Off on the wrong track

Last year, University of Glasgow researchers examined the results of 13 large statin trials that included more than 91,000 subjects.

Results showed that for every 255 patients treated with statins for four years, one would develop type 2 diabetes, apparently as a consequence of statin use.

About 20 million people take statins in the U.S. So, one case of type 2 diabetes for every 255 patients comes to well over 78,000 people who will develop or already have developed diabetes as a statin side effect. (And you can forget about the “four years” business because statin users are users-for-life.)

But for those who are convinced that statins are life-saving wonder drugs, then I guess thousands upon thousands of cases of diabetes are acceptable. Not to mention the untold cases of muscle damage, kidney damage, liver damage, and cognition damage.

One of the Glasgow researchers told Reuters Health that the results of their study should put a stop to statin overuse, and the drug will be given “when appropriate for the right reasons.”

Aw, that’s adorable! He must have missed the news that the FDA recently OK’d the use of the statin Crestor for people who don’t have high cholesterol. And that approval came in spite of a Crestor study that showed a link to–yep–increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

So what effect would statins have on a patient who already has type 2? That’s impossible to say without specific research. But without that research we can logically conclude that it just sounds like a really bad idea.

Of course, your doctor will probably give you the party-line about how wonderfully statins reduce heart disease risk. If he does, you’ll be ready to refute the commonly accepted risk-benefit assessment with some frightening details about the true dangers of statin use. You can find those here.

“Statins and Risk of Incident Diabetes: A Collaborative Meta-Analysis of Randomised Statin Trials” The Lancet, Published online ahead of print, 2/17/10, thelancet.com

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