Do Cholesterol Medications Make You Fat?

by Kevin DiDonato, MS, CSCS, CES

Are you over the age of 45?

Do you exercise regularly?

Are you one of the 25 percent of adults that needs statins - the cholesterol-lowering medication?

If so, you may be impairing your body’s ability to adapt to exercise.

And this may not be good news for people who are not just older, but older AND overweight.

Before we get into the surprising findings, there is some background information you should know about…

Statins and Exercise
Statins are normally prescribed by doctors, cardiologists, and other healthcare practitioners as a way to lower your total cholesterol numbers, lower your LDL cholesterol, and in some cases, increase your HDL cholesterol.

This type of medication is used to control at least one factor associated with heart disease, and is also commonly prescribed after a heart attack or stroke has happened.

Statins are one of the FIVE core medications routinely prescribed to heart attack survivors and other people who are at an increased risk for heart disease or having a heart attack.

Now, however, current research suggests that statins may be linked to skeletal muscle myopathy (muscle disease often associated with weakness), and impaired mitochondrial function.

But, the use of statins and inhibiting exercise adaptions has not been fully investigated, or it’s unclear if statin use is a culprit.

Until now!

A new study released by Duke University shows that statin use may be linked to impaired adaptions to exercise.

Here’s what they found:

The study included 37 participants who were divided into an exercise-only group or an exercise and statin group.

They found that exercise alone increased cardiorespiratory fitness by 10 percent.

However, the participants exercising with statins showed a 1.5 percent increase in cardiorespiratory fitness levels.

Similarly, in the exercise-only group, muscle citrate synthase activity (measure of mitochondrial function) increased by 13 percent, but in the exercise and statin group, it decreased by 4.5 percent.

What did they conclude?
“Simvastatin attenuates increases in cardiorespiratory fitness and skeletal muscle mitochondrial content when combined with exercise training in overweight or obese patients at risk of the metabolic syndrome.”
Exercise and Statin Use
Exercise is an important – often vital – component to a healthy life.

For those who are at risk for cardiovascular disease, including walking, jogging, biking, or swimming may lead to improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol, and other factors related to heart health.

And for those who are 45 years and older, exercise may be one of the BIGGEST factors for improvements in health and longevity.

But, there is sad news.  Roughly 25 percent of people, who are 45 years and older, may currently be taking a statin in order to control cholesterol.

And this may pose problems for exercise and the adaptations related to exercise.

According to the study above, statin use may decrease the adaptions associated with exercise, therefore possibly reducing the positive effects that may be seen with exercise.

Although statins may be important for better heart health, they may disrupt how your body adapts to your current exercise program.


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Mark Dilworth, BA, PES

My Fitness Hut


About Mark

About Mark

Mark Dilworth is a Lifestyle and Weight Management Specialist and since 2006 he has owned Your Fitness University, Her Fitness Hut, My Fitness Hut, Sports Fitness Hut.

Mark has helped thousands of clients and readers make lifestyle changes that lead to better long-term health, which includes acceptable body fat and ideal body weight.He does not recommend fad diets, quick weight loss gimmicks, starvation diets, weight loss pills, fat burner supplements and the like.