More and more people, especially mid-life women, are being prescribed cholesterol-lowering statins. Some doctors are even recommending the drugs be added to the water supply or dispensed at the McDonald’s drive-thru windows. I’m not kidding.

That was the absurd suggestion by a researcher at the Imperial College of London in a study published by the prestigious The American Journal of Cardiology.

However, postmenopausal women using statins may be increasing their risk of diabetes according to a study published by the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Annie L. Culver, B. Pharm, Rochester Methodist Hospital, Mayo Clinic, and her colleagues analyzed data from the national, multiyear Women’s Health Initiative, the same study that brought down synthetic hormone replacement therapy.

In this study, researchers used WHI data through 2005 and included 153,840 women without diabetes and with an average age of 63.2 years. At the beginning of the study 7.04 percent of the women reported taking a statin. After three years there were 10,242 new cases of diabetes.

According to Dr. Mark Hyman, an expert in functional, integrative and nutritional medicine, women taking statins had a 71% increased risk of diabetes compared to women not taking the drugs. Even after adjusting for other potential variables, including age, race/ethnicity and body mass index, women were found to have a 48% increased risk.

Statins Ineffective for Heart Disease

Statins are prescribed to reduce cholesterol and coronary heart disease. The science behind statins, however, is suspect. According to Dr. Hyman, studies have only found statins effective to prevent second heart attacks but not first heart attacks.

Although they have been prescribed to lower cholesterol, there are also serious questions as to whether cholesterol is even related to coronary heart disease and heart attacks. In fact, in older patients, lower cholesterol levels are associated with higher rates of death from all causes.

In 99 out of 100 men, says Dr. Hyman, the drugs have no therapeutic effect. They do, however, have significant side effects. In 15% of patients, reported side effects include muscle damage, muscle cramps, muscle weakness, sexual dysfunction, and liver and nerve damage.

Natural Alternatives to Statins

Safe and natural alternatives to statins are abundant including dietary choices. Here are 5 foods to include in your diet to help reduce cholesterol and risk of coronary heart disease:

  1. Apples. One study from Florida State University showed that postmenopausal women who eat an apple every day lower their LDL (bad) cholesterol, raise their HDL (good) cholesterol and lose weight.
  2. Beans. One cup of beans per day can lower LDL by 24% and ½ cup can lower it by 8%.
  3. Oatmeal. Whole grains are a good source of soluble fiber (as are apples and beans) and can significantly reduce cholesterol.
  4. Salmon. Fatty fish containing Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce blood pressure and the risk of developing blood clots. Other good sources are mackerel, halibut, lake trout, herring, Albacore tuna and sardines.
  5. Walnuts. Walnuts are highest among nuts in antioxidants and the Omega-3 fatty acids also help lower cholesterol, protect against heart disease and stroke.


Annie L. Culver, BPharm, et al, Statin Use and Risk of Diabetes Mellitus in Postmenopausal Women in the Women’s Health Initiative, Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(2):144-152.

Why Women Should Stop Their Cholesterol Lowering Medication.

Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (2011, May 3). ‘Apple a day’ advice rooted in science. ScienceDaily.

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