Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs May Help Prevent Diabetic Nerve Damage

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Cholesterol-busting statins may also help prevent common and serious diabetes complications, a new study indicates.

Although the drugs are known to lower the risk for heart attack and stroke among those with type 2 diabetes, Danish researchers report statins may also help protect against diabetes-related damage to small blood vessels in the body that can lead to blindness and amputations.

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The scientists noted that the results in the new research were unexpected.

“Since high levels of blood glucose, the hallmark of diabetes, are linked with microvascular disease, and since statins are suspected of raising glucose levels, we tested the hypothesis that individuals taking a statin before a diagnosis of diabetes might be at increased risk of developing microvascular complications,” study author Borge Nordestgaard, chief physician in clinical biochemistry at Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark, explained in a news release. “Surprisingly, the results showed that statins decreased, rather than increased, risk of these complications.”

The research, published Sept. 9 in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, involved data from Danish clinical registries on more than 60,000 people with diabetes. The patients were aged 40 or older and were diagnosed with the disease between January 1996 and December 2009.

The researchers compared the outcomes of more than 15,500 patients who used statins to more than 47,000 patients who were not taking the drugs.