Atoning for dietary sins

Do Aussies take statins to compensate for unhealthy dietary choices?

Contrary to popular belief and the results of previous international research, Monash University researchers have shown that statins are not being used by Australians to make up for bad health choices.

Researchers analysed data from 4,614 patients aged ≥ 37 years gathered in 2011-12 from across the Australian population.

Statin use, smoking status and physical activity were self-reported, while saturated fat and alcohol intake were measured via a food frequency questionnaire.

All models were adjusted for age, sex, education, GP visits, BMI, hypertension, diabetes and prior cardiovascular diseases.

Statin users were found to be 29% less likely to consume high amounts of saturated fat as a percentage of total daily energy intake, compared to non-users.

Smoking status, alcohol consumption and exercise level did not differ between users and non-users of statins, according to the study published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology.

“It’s sometimes assumed that many people take statin cholesterol medications to substitute for a healthy diet and lifestyle, but we found no evidence of this,” says study leader Dr Jenni Ilomäki from Monash University’s Centre for Medicine Use and Safety.

“In fact, statin users were less likely to consume high levels of saturated fat than non-users, even after controlling for a person’s cardiovascular risk factors,” says Dr Ilomäki.

“It is possible that people prescribed statins were more likely to receive dietary information from their healthcare professionals than people not prescribed statins, but it remains unclear whether better dietary habits among statin users are sustained over time.”

The findings are consistent with a previous study in Sweden in which statin users had better dietary habits compared to non-users, say the authors.

Statins are currently among the most widely prescribed medications in Australia, with more than 30% of people aged 50 years and older taking them to lower their cholesterol.

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