Cholesterol drug may block exercise benefits

U. MISSOURI (US) — Experts urge doctors to reconsider statins for obese patients after finding the cholesterol drug may block some benefits of exercise.

Statins, the most widely prescribed drugs worldwide, are often suggested to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease in individuals with obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome, which is a combination of medical disorders including excess body fat and/or high levels of blood pressure, blood sugar, and/or cholesterol.

Researchers, however, found that simvastatin, a generic type of statin previously sold under the brand name Zocor, hindered the positive effects of exercise for obese and overweight adults. The study appears in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“Fitness has proven to be the most significant predictor of longevity and health because it protects people from a variety of chronic diseases,” says John Thyfault, an associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri.

“Daily physical activity is needed to maintain or improve fitness, and thus improve health outcomes. However, if patients start exercising and taking statins at the same time, it seems that statins block the ability of exercise to improve their fitness levels.”

Thyfault says many cardiologists want to prescribe statins to all patients over a certain age regardless of whether they have metabolic syndrome; the drugs also are recommended for people with Type 2 diabetes. He recommends that cardiologists more closely weigh the benefits and risks of statins given this new data about their effect on exercise training.

“Statins have only been used for about 15-20 years, so we don’t know what the long-term effects of statins will be on aerobic fitness and overall health,” Thyfault says. “If the drugs cause complications with improving or maintaining fitness, not everyone should be prescribed statins.”

Three-month workout

Thyfault and his colleagues measured cardiorespiratory fitness in 37 previously sedentary, obese individuals ages 25-59 with low fitness levels. The participants followed the same exercise regimen for 12 weeks; 18 of the 37 people also took 40 mg of simvastatin daily. Statins significantly affected participants’ exercise outcomes.

Participants in the exercise-only group increased their cardiorespiratory fitness by an average of 10 percent compared to a 1.5 percent increase among participants also prescribed statins. Additionally, skeletal muscle mitochondrial content, the site where muscle cells turn oxygen into energy, decreased by 4.5 percent in the group taking statins while the exercise-only group had a 13 percent increase, a normal response following exercise training.

Thyfault suggests that future research determine whether lower doses of simvastatin or other types of statins similarly affect people’s exercise outcomes and thus their risk for diseases such as Type 2 diabetes. Starting a statin regimen after exercising and obtaining a higher fitness level may reduce the drugs’ effects on fitness, he says.

The University of Missouri Research Board, the Veterans Affairs’ Career Development Award, the American Heart Association Midwest Affiliate, and the National Institutes of Health funded the research.

Source: University of Missouri

chat3 Comments


  1. Carl

    I have been taking statins for 10 yrs now and I am a martial artist for the last 20 yrs. I walk 4 miles a day, work out 4 times a week (heavy). I have not noticed any significant difference in my performance while taking the drug. My sugar level is well controlled (type 2 diabetes) and I attribute this to exercise. I am over 50 yrs old. However much I exercise, my diet has changed and that I eat 80% less carbohydrates like rice and bread. Being an Asian Chinese all my life I am little overweight. I should be weighing around 160 but I weigh 175 lbs. I have been trying to lose weight and this is the hardest thing to do some how. The zone diet which I tried yrs ago (no rice, pasta, bread, emphasis on more protein) made me lose weight about 15 lbs in 1 month but this is not sustainable. I am trying to reach a weight set point of 160 lbs but not sure how to do it more efficiently. My daily caloric intake is about 1700 to 1900. Any suggestions from your scientific community is appreciated.

  2. Floyd Gary Thacker

    Subsidize organic foods so they are cheaper to purchase than other foods, provide nutritional education, mental health & exercise programs for everyone, but especially the obese. At least this will be preventive and help reduce health costs in the long run. The country that takes care of the physical and mental health of its population will have the best and most innovative workforce in the world.

  3. Cruz Subia

    I have been on statins for about 15 years and I am going to be 65 in June God willing. My weight fluctuates about 10 lbs from winter to summer when I lose the weight gardening outside. I did have to change from Lipitor to Provastatin as I developed severe leg pain and it is known that this can be a result of statins. The change was done to see if the pain would subside and this has not happened as of yet now on 6 months of use. I too have tried many diets hoping to drop the extra 15 lbs I carry being 5’8″ and about 180 usually. I’ve just chalked it up to age and less activities due to chronic pain and fatigue from fibromyalgia and nueropathy……………..

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