Will cholesterol-fighting drugs make you gain weight?

A new study says taking statins may lead to unexpected consequences.

MGN Online

(CBS) - One out of six American adults use statins to lower cholesterol, but a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found those who take statins eat more calories and fat over time than those who don't. In turn, this could bring more health consequences.

"It's really an important study both for us as individuals and for doctors to say, 'We have to counsel people.' The key is statins and diet together are so powerful to prevent disease. Either one alone aren't close to two of them together," CBS News medical consultant Dr. David Agus said Friday on "CBS This Morning."

From 1999 to 2010, the use of statins more than doubled from 7.5 percent to 16.5 percent. During that period, the study surveyed over 27,000 adults and found that there was a 9.6 percent increase in caloric intake and 14.4 percent increase in fat consumption among adults taking cholesterol medicine.

As time goes on, Agus said, people can gain weight because they start to think, "I could put some butter on my steak. I can have some extra fries."

"It's not a free pass, it's not a ticket to do whatever you want," he said. "It's in addition to doing the right thing."

Agus said statins are powerful in the right situations.

"It's the only class of drugs that make people live longer. Statins work, they lower cholesterol and they also block inflammation. So they delay heart attack and stroke, and they also decrease the incidents of the death rate of cancer," he said.

Agus doesn't recommend it for everyone, but based on family history and personal risk factors, he said people in their 40s should have a discussion with their doctors about taking the cholesterol-fighting drug.

The study findings come with concerns from some doctors, however. In the editor's note of the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Rita F. Redberg said, "This article raises concerns of a potential moral hazard of statin use."

Agus said that's going to an extreme.

"There are moral hazards in the world that I can think of and we talk about them daily on the show here," Agus said. "But eating too much fat - I don't consider a moral hazard."

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