Statins and diabetes

Statins can both increase and decrease your risk of diabetes. Learn more about the complexities of this relationship.


While statins (such as Simvastatin or Atorvastatin) are often used to treat diabetes and to decrease the risk for diabetes, they are also linked to an increase in the risk of developing this same disease. This complex relationship can make it difficult for some doctors to prescribe this drug to people who are at risk of diabetes.

Used as Treatment

High cholesterol increases the likelihood of diabetes, and it is one of the contributing factors to several forms of diabetes. The higher your cholesterol is, the less likely your body is to produce insulin. It is also possible that your body is suffering from higher cholesterol levels because it is unable to produce insulin the way it is supposed to. There are several different causes for diabetes, and high cholesterol only contributes to the problem.

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Statins treat that problem by decreasing bad cholesterol (LDL) levels. This helps reduce the risk of diabetes and allows the patient to get closer to being healthy, but it’s not a problem-free treatment. There is the potential for side effects, though minor, and those effects are a real concern for people who are already suffering from a disease that puts them at risk for various other medical problems.

Still, statins are quite effective at treating high cholesterol levels. By lowering the amount of LDL cholesterol in the body, healthy cholesterol (HDL) has the chance to increase and make the body healthier. Statins encourage that exchange of cholesterols and give people the ability to change their bodies and to become healthier by merely taking a drug. Now, the treatment will work better, and the statins will be more effective if the patient is also engaging in a regular exercise routine and eating a healthy diet.

Risk of Diabetes

There is ample evidence to show that statins have the potential to increase the risk of a patient developing type 2 diabetes. That may seem odd since they are used to treat the same disease, but while they are helping lower bad cholesterol levels, these drugs also have the potential to make the body less sensitive to the effects of insulin. That is only speculation and educated guesses at this point, but it is known that people who regularly take the drug are at increased risk of developing this disease. The reason for this has not yet been ascertained.

Insulin is important for people with diabetes because it tells their body to stop storing up fat. If the body becomes resistant to this chemical, then the body will continue to stock up on fat and cholesterol and not really know when to stop. Insulin needs to work effectively every time it is produced or administered. If the body is resisting it, then cholesterol levels and triglycerides will only increase, resulting in congestive heart failure or some other cardiovascular problem.

For many doctors, the risks outweigh the benefits of using statins, and they opt not to prescribe them to people who are already somewhat insulin resistant or at risk of type two diabetes. It is not known how statins choose who they will affect by increasing diabetes risk. That means doctors are making a gamble every time they prescribe this medication. The patient who is at risk or suffering from diabetes needs treatment, but statins may not always the best choice.

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