Weight Gain, Another Reason to Avoid Statins

Published on line two days ago in advance of print publication, a new study demonstrates an association between statin use and increased caloric intake resulting in weight gain. (1)

A brief editorial (Written by Dr. Rita Redberg, on faculty at UCSF and editor of JAMA: INTERNAL MEDICINE). is worth quoting in entirety as it succinctly reviews many criticisms of statin overuse that I have discussed in previous posts here and here.

“There remains much controversy over the risks and benefits of statins for primary prevention. Besides the risks of muscle aches, diabetes, and cognitive dysfunction, I have observed over the years that for many patients, statins provide a false reassurance, as people seem to believe that statins can compensate for poor dietary choices and a sedentary life. In an elegantly performed analysis of NHANES data from 1999 to 2010, Sugiyama and colleagues have documented exactly such behavior. They found that compared with statin nonusers, statin users significantly increased their fat intake and calorie consumption, along with their BMI, in the last decade. This article raises concerns of a potential moral hazard of statin use, in addition to the already known adverse effects. Focusing on cholesterol levels can be distracting from the more beneficial focus on healthy lifestyle to reduce heart disease risk.” (2)

Of course association does not imply causation, but the editorial above suggests a plausible explanation for the relationship.

I have previously discussed how a carbohydrate restricted whole foods diet (here and here) results in superior weight loss, improved glucose control, reduced blood pressure, reduced triglycerides and improved HDL when compared to a low fat American Heart Association type diet. The former results in spontaneous reduction of caloric intake (improved satiety-no calorie counting required), the latter requires calorie counting in order to reduce caloric intake. The carbohydrate restricted approach does NOT result in increased net fat intake but because carbohydrates are reduced, fat as a % of total calories is increased. On average most studies in adults report a spontaneous reduction of about 400-600 calories per day when carbohydrates are significantly restricted.

A paleolithic diet that eliminates all processed foods, refined vegetable oils, grains, legumes and dairy but includes pastured grass-fed meat, wild seafood, free range poultry and eggs, organic fresh vegetables, fruit and nuts is typically low carbohydrate compared to the standard American diet (SAD). A paleolithic nutritional approach produces similar metabolic improvement within a few weeks. (3)

(1) Sugiyama T, Tsugawa Y, Tseng C-H, Kobayashi Y, Shapiro MF. Different time trends of caloric and fat intake between statin users and nonusers among US adults: gluttony in the time of statins? [published online April 24, 2014]. JAMA Intern Med. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.1927. PubMed

(2) Statins and Weight Gain: Redberg RF. JAMA Intern Med. 2014 Apr 24. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.1994. [Epub ahead of print]  PubMed

(3) Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet L A Frassetto1, M Schloetter, M Mietus-Synder, R C Morris Jr1 and A Sebastian European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2009) 63, 947–955; doi:10.1038/ejcn.2009.4; published online 11 February 2009 PubMed

Go in peace

Bob Hansen MD

2 thoughts on “Weight Gain, Another Reason to Avoid Statins

  1. Rosemary Crowe

    Interesting about statins. When I had my open heart surgery last year, the surgeon gave me a script for one. I told him I didn’t need it as my cholesterol was always low, and my cath showed NO plaque. He told me that Medicare REQUIRED him to give me the script, but not filling it was my choice. If I was not so aware of my own labs and test results, I would have filled it and taken it. A MED I DID NOT NEED ! !
    I thought that whole episode rather shocking.

    Reply
  2. Bob Hansen MD Post author

    Indeed, the intrusion of the federal government into the daily practice of medicine with respect to the over prescription of STATINS is most disheartening. This is repeated thousands of times daily in physician’s offices.

    Reply

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