A new study has found that a widespread side effect of statins, the popular cholesterol-lowering drugs, is over-eating. Based on the study’s results, researchers believe that many individuals who take statin to combat their high cholesterol have the false presumption that the drug allows them to overindulge on fatty foods without any consequence. These patients will often stop practicing healthy lifestyles after they begin taking statin and “let the drug do all the work.” Researchers hope their findings will help raise awareness for this trend and promote the correct use of statins.

From 1990-2010, researchers analyzed government health surveys. They used information such as physical tests, blood tests, and food intake for a total of 28,000 individuals. Over the years, the amount of individuals using statins steadily increased, as did the amount of calories consumed by the statin users. In 1990, the average calories consumed by statin users was 2,000 per day. By 2010, the average daily calorie intake of statin users had risen to 2,192. Fat intake went from 72 to 82 grams daily. The individuals' average BMI and diabetes rates also increased over the years.

Experts believe the increase in calories and fat intake of statin users over the 10-year period can be attributed to the false sense of assurance that many people associate with statins. “People seem to believe that statins can compensate for poor dietary choices and sedentary life,” Dr. Rita Redberg, JAMA editor, explained in her commentary on the issue.

The study does not give definitive proof that statin use directly caused these patients to adopt unhealthy diets, but it does show that there is a dangerous change in the diets of statin users over the past two decades. “The study certainly doesn’t mean that everyone responds this way, but the concern is that people who are on statins ought to be particularly careful about how many calories they eat and what kinds of food they eat. They don’t appear to be doing that,” Dr. Martin Shapiro, led author of the study, explained in The Inquisitor.

This information is especially important now because last year statin had been recommended for wider use by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association. As reported, last October, the two organizations are working together to encourage doctors to increase statin dosage for the most at-risk patients and lower it for those who have negative side effects. The Inquisitor explained that the study’s authors are worried that expanding statin use could lead to more widespread unwise diet and exercise choices.

Source: Sugiyama T, Tsugawa Y, Tseng C, Kobayashi Y, Shapiro M. Different Time Trends Of Caloric and Fat Intake Between Statin Users and Nonusers Among US Adults. Gluttony in the Time of Statins? JAMA Internal Medicine. 2014.