Genetic Disorder May Reveal How Statins Boost Diabetes Risk

Posted: March 11, 2015 at 9:45 am

Lipitor and other statin drugs are commonly prescribed to lower cholesterol. Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

Lipitor and other statin drugs are commonly prescribed to lower cholesterol.

Millions of people take statins to lower their cholesterol and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. But taking statins does slightly up the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Figuring out whether that means "No statins for you" isn't always easy, despite a proliferation of guidelines intended to help.

Here's in interesting wrinkle: If you've got a hereditary form of high cholesterol you're much less likely to get Type 2 diabetes, according to a study published Tuesday in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association.

That's good news for those people, who often have high levels of LDL cholesterol starting in childhood and face a high risk of heart disease and stroke. And it offers intriguing hints as to a possible link between cholesterol receptors in the body and Type 2 diabetes.

To find that out, researchers in the Netherlands delved into an amazing database that has tracked people for familial hypercholesterolemia since 1994. The large number of people tested 63,320 made it possible to not only identify people with genetic mutations that caused the high cholesterol, but to show how it runs in families.

The people with familial hypercholesterolemia had a 51 percent lower risk of Type 2 diabetes than their relatives without the disorder. But the diabetes risk for both groups was low: 1.75 percent versus 2.93 percent. It varied based on the particular genetic mutation involved. That difference makes for a nifty demonstration on how genes affect risk, and confirms a link that doctors who treat patients with the disorder have long observed.

And it also may explain why taking statins boosts the risk of Type 2 diabetes in some people.

One theory on how statins work is that they encourage cells to hoover up the bad LDL cholesterol by turning on LDL receptors. That's good for lowering cholesterol levels in the blood, but the study authors said it may also end up damaging the pancreas, which has lots of LDL receptors and controls blood sugar.

"They're speculating that this LDL receptor may be important in some way in determining the risk of diabetes in a statin," says David Preiss, a metabolic physician at the Glasgow Cardiovascular Research Center at the University of Glasgow who wrote an editorial accompanying the JAMA study. "The data they show is quite strongly supportive of that."

Read the original:
Genetic Disorder May Reveal How Statins Boost Diabetes Risk

Comments are closed.