Statin Drugs Found To Slash Exercise Benefits

New research has shown that statins, one of the most commonly prescribed cardiovascular drugs worldwide, may reduce the positive effects of exercise in overweight individuals. 

Statins are primarily prescribed to lower elevated LDL cholesterol levels, but may be recommended for patients as a 'preventative health measure' if they are deemed to be at risk of metabolic syndrome, or obese. 

Statin drugs are already associated with a range of debilitating side effects including moderate or serious liver dysfunction, acute renal failure, moderate or serious myopathy (muscle disease), and cataracts.

It seems ironic that they may also hinder the ability of exercise to improve fitness levels and health in the people that need it most – thereby worsening the very conditions they are supposed to treat. 

While this study was conducted on a small population of sedentary overweight and obese adults, clinically significant differences in cardiorespiratory fitness were reported in patients taking statin drugs compared with non-medicated patients. 

After 12 weeks of aerobic exercise training, patients not taking statins increased their cardiorespiratory fitness by 10% in comparison to patients taking statin drugs, who only achieved a 1.5% increase. 

Furthermore, skeletal muscle citrate synths, a marker of skeletal muscle mitochondrial content, was significantly increased (by 13%) in the non-medicated group, while statin-taking participants experienced a decrease of 4.5%. 

Skeletal muscle mitochondrial content is related to the energy-producing ability of muscle cells, and is required for exercise-mediated improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness. 


Emed's Comment

These research findings are extremely concerning, considering that regular exercise is often recommended alongside statin use, and is a tried and true method to reduce cardiovascular disease risk and obesity – without side effects or financial expense to individuals. 

Additionally, as the authors of this study state, “cardiorespiratory fitness has been identified as the strongest independent predictor of both all- cause and cardiovascular disease mortality in nearly every population in which it has been examined”. 

We hope this new information on statins will prompt healthcare practitioners to rethink prescribing statin drugs in cases they are not absolutely necessary, and consider other treatment options where possible. 

If you are currently taking a statin drug, it is essential that you also supplement with the nutrient, CoEnzyme Q10, which is depleted by statins and may help to attenuate some statin-induced side effects. 

This study also highlights the importance of true preventative health care measures such as healthy diet and lifestyle, including regular exercise, stress management, etc. throughout adulthood to reduce cardiovascular risk in the first place. 

To find out more about heart-healthy dietary and lifestyle measures you can take, click here and here

If you are interested in individualised health advice to keep your cholesterol levels under control, connect with an Integrative Medicine Practitioner through Emed's eClinic. 


Further Reading: 



Mikus, C.R. et al. 2013, Simvastatin impairs exercise training adaptations, Journal of the American College of Cardiology