In a database study of nearly 26,000 beneficiaries of Tricare, the military health system, cholesterol-lowering drugs statins have been found to increase the risk of developing diabetes. The study, which included only people who at baseline were free of heart disease, diabetes and other severe chronic disease, is among the first to show the connection in a relatively healthy group of people.

Lead author Ishak Mansi of University of Texas Southwestern said that in the study, statin use was associated with a significantly higher risk of new-onset diabetes, even in a very healthy population. Mansi added that the risk of diabetes with statins has been known, but up until now it was thought that this might be due to the fact that people who were prescribed statins had greater medical risks to begin with.

In the study, statin use was also associated with a very high risk of diabetes complications, says Mansi. Among 3,351 pairs of similar patients, part of the overall study group, those patients on statins were 250 percent more likely than their non-statin-using counterparts to develop diabetes with complications.

Statin users were also 14 percent more likely to become overweight or obese after being on the drugs. The study also found that the higher the dose of any of the statins, the greater the risk of diabetes, diabetes complications, and obesity.

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