In February of this year the FDA issued advice on the risks of taking statin drugs. They warn that people being treated with statins may be at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes, and that cognitive impairment, such as memory loss, forgetfulness, and confusion, has been reported by some statin users. Statin drugs are one of the most widely prescribed drugs in the world. In the United States alone over 20 million people are prescribed statins each year.

In a recent study involving postmenopausal women enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative and published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, statin use was associated with a 48 percent increased  risk of developing type 2 diabetes when compared to women not taking the drug. Other studies have linked statin use and diabetes in men: A 2011 analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and a 2010 analysis published in the Lancet also found increased risk of diabetes in people taking statins.

Some experts are minimizing these risks by saying the benefits outweigh the increased risk of diabetes. Not all experts agree, however. Rita Redburg, a cardiologist at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, said the increased diabetes risk “raises the concern that over time the diabetes risk will outweigh the cholesterol-lowering benefit on overall risk of cardiovascular disease.”

Although diet and lifestyle changes have been found to lower LDL cholesterol levels, many people opt for statins over making the changes necessary to get cholesterol levels under control. Perhaps this new advice on statin risks might provide the motivation for people to start making some diet and lifestyle changes. It can seem like changing diet and finding time (or energy) to exercise is the hard route, but I can tell you—diabetes is no walk in the park.

I will soon be taping my next PBS show, The Heart of Perfect Health, in which I delve into the root causes of heart disease and show you how to reclaim control of your health by making some simple changes. And of course, I will talk about how gut health is at the heart of total body health. I’ll talk more about the show, and my upcoming book, as the months go on. Stay tuned.