Science Current Events | Science News | Brightsurf.com
 

Free statins with fast food could neutralize heart risk, scientists say

August 13, 2010
Fast food outlets could provide statin drugs free of charge so that customers can neutralise the heart disease dangers of fatty food, researchers at Imperial College London suggest in a new study published this week.

Statins reduce the amount of unhealthy "LDL" cholesterol in the blood. A wealth of trial data has proven them to be highly effective at lowering a person's heart attack risk.

In a paper published in the Sunday 15 August issue of the American Journal of Cardiology, Dr Darrel Francis and colleagues calculate that the reduction in cardiovascular risk offered by a statin is enough to offset the increase in heart attack risk from eating a cheeseburger and a milkshake.

Dr Francis, from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London, who is the senior author of the study, said: "Statins don't cut out all of the unhealthy effects of burgers and fries. It's better to avoid fatty food altogether. But we've worked out that in terms of your likelihood of having a heart attack, taking a statin can reduce your risk to more or less the same degree as a fast food meal increases it."

One statin, simvastatin, is already available in low doses (10mg) over the counter at pharmacies without a prescription. Other statins are so far only prescribed by doctors, and limited by cost to patients at particular risk of heart attack or stroke. However, the cost of the tablets has fallen sharply in recent years (from ~£40/month to ~£1.50/month), such that the cost to the NHS of seeing a doctor is much greater than the cost of the tablet.

"It's ironic that people are free to take as many unhealthy condiments in fast food outlets as they like, but statins, which are beneficial to heart health, have to be prescribed," Dr Francis said.

Statins have among the best safety profiles of any medication. A very small proportion of regular statin users experience significant side effects, with problems in the liver and kidneys reported in between 1 in 1,000 and 1 in 10,000 people.

"Everybody knows that fast food is bad for you, but people continue to eat it because it tastes good. We're genetically programmed to prefer high-calorie foods, and sadly fast food chains will continue to sell unhealthy foods because it earns them a living.

"It makes sense to make risk-reducing supplements available just as easily as the unhealthy condiments that are provided free of charge. It would cost less than 5p per customer - not much different to a sachet of ketchup.

"When people engage in risky behaviours like driving or smoking, they're encouraged to take measures that minimise their risk, like wearing a seatbelt or choosing cigarettes with filters. Taking a statin is a rational way of lowering some of the risks of eating a fatty meal."

Studies have shown a clear link between total fat intake and blood cholesterol, which is strongly linked to heart disease. Recent evidence suggests that trans fats, which are found in high levels in fast food, are the component of the Western diet that is most dangerous in terms of heart disease risk.

Dr Francis and his colleagues used data from a previous large cohort study to quantify how a person's heart attack risk increases with their daily intake of total fat and trans fat. He compared this with the decrease in risk from various statins, based on a meta-analysis of seven randomised controlled trials.

The results showed that most statin regimes are able to compensate for the relative risk increase from eating a cheeseburger and a small milkshake.

The researchers note that studies should be conducted to assess the potential risks of allowing people to take statins freely, without medical supervision. They suggest that a warning on the packet should emphasise that no tablet can substitute for a healthy diet, and advise people to consult their doctor for more advice.

Imperial College London


Related Statins Current Events and Statins News Articles


Primary prevention use of statins increases among the oldest old
The use of statins for primary prevention in patients without vascular disease older than 79 increased between 1999 and 2012, although there is little randomized evidence to guide the use of these cholesterol-lowering medications in this patient population, according to a research letter published online by JAMA Internal Medicine.

Testing testosterone: Trial finds no link to hardening of the arteries
Testosterone sales have grown rapidly over the last decade, but few studies have examined the long-term effects of taking testosterone on cardiovascular health and other important outcomes.

Study of 83,000 veterans finds cardiovascular benefits to testosterone replacement
A Veterans Affairs database study of more than 83,000 patients found that men whose low testosterone was restored to normal through gels, patches, or injections had a lower risk of heart attack, stroke, or death from any cause, versus similar men who were not treated.

Statins show promise to reduce major complications following lung surgery
The results of a prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial of patients undergoing elective pulmonary resection was designed to evaluate the effects of statin therapy.

Power of the media's impact on medicine use revealed
More than 60,000 Australians are estimated to have reduced or discontinued their use of prescribed cholesterol-lowering statin medications following the airing of a two-part series critical of statins by ABC TV's science program, Catalyst, a University of Sydney study reveals in the latest Medical Journal of Australia.

Visualizing calcified coronary arteries may be wake-up call to change lifestyle
"It is my coronary artery and my coronary artery calcification and I am facing a real risk and challenge," said one patient.

Cholesterol drugs associated with 30 percent lower stroke risk in healthy older adults
Use of cholesterol lowering drugs is associated with a one third lower risk of stroke in older adults without previous disease, finds a study published in The BMJ this week.

Strong statin-diabetes link seen in large study of Tricare patients
In a database study of nearly 26,000 beneficiaries of Tricare, the military health system, those taking statin drugs to control their cholesterol were 87 percent more likely to develop diabetes.

Statins associated with longer prostate cancer time to progression during ADT
The use of cholesterol-lowering statins when men initiated androgen deprivation therapy for prostate cancer was associated with longer time to progression of the disease, according to an article published online by JAMA Oncology.

Statin drugs can delay prostate cancer progression in patients, study shows
Men who went on cholesterol-lowering statin drugs when they began androgen deprivation therapy for prostate cancer had a longer time in which their disease was under control than did men who didn't take statins, a clinical trial led by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute investigators shows.
More Statins Current Events and Statins News Articles

© 2015 BrightSurf.com