Statins side effects: How the drug may affect body weight particularly belly fat

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Statins are a group of medicines that can help lower the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood. LDL cholesterol is often called the “bad” cholesterol because it collects in the walls of your blood vessels, hiking your risk of having a heart attack. As positive as it may be on the effect of cholesterol, the drug is known to affect a person’s blood sugars and weight.

In a study published in the National Library of Health, several statins and their ability to increase body and liver fat was analysed.

The aim of this study was to analyse the effect of statins on body and liver fat accumulation in obese Zucker rats.

Seventy Zucker rats were divided into seven groups.

Rats from six statin groups were treated with pravastatin, simvastatin, atorvastatin, rosuvastatin, fluvastatin and lovastatin respectively.

After six weeks, liver and white adipose tissue from intra-abdominal and subcutaneous locations were dissected and weighed.

Subcutaneous adipose tissue from rosuvastatin, atorvastatin, fluvastatin and lovastatin treated rats was significantly increased.

Fatty acid synthase (FAS) activity was increased by the administration of fluvastatin and lovastatin.

“With regard to liver, there were no changes in weight but the amount of triacylglycerols was increased in rosuvastatin group, as well as its liver damage was higher,” noted the study.

“These results show that statins have different effects on body fat accumulation.

“These results should be taken into account for statin choice in prescription.”


Statin medications have also been found to cause less insulin secretion making the cells less sensitive to insulin.

More potent statins like atorvastatin, rosuvastatin and simvastatin cause a larger increase in blood sugar than less potent statins like pravastatin.

It’s also possible a person’s blood sugar level may increase when taking statins, which may lead to developing type 2 diabetes.

The risk is small but important enough that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning on statin labels regarding blood glucose levels and diabetes.

Another study done in 2014 involved 28,000 participants and compared them with people who didn’t take statins.

Over the 11-year period it was found that people who didn’t take statins didn’t change their eating habits or gain significant weight.

People who did take statins on the other hand consumed more calories and fat over time and gained more weight. 

The study also showed that statin users had a faster increase in body mass index (BMI) than those who didn’t use statins.

Researchers have previously found that people prescribed statins rather than placebo medication had about a 12 percent greater risk of getting type 2 diabetes over a four-year period, and also gained about half a pound in weight on average.

Dr David Preiss of the University of Glasgow Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Science said: “Weight gain is a risk factor for diabetes, which might help explain the small increased risk of diabetes observed in people taking statins.”

Commenting on the findings in a statement, Dr Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, which helped fund the study, says: “Researchers have found a direct relationship between how statins reduce cholesterol production and small increases in weight gain and blood sugar.

“This could explain the slightly increased risk of diabetes – a risk that could be reduced through lifestyle changes.”

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