In this article, we explore the relationship between statins and belly fat. First, we must ask: wouldn’t it be nice if our prescription drugs solved our health problems without adversely affecting our health in some other way?
Things are never this simple. Most medications have a list of side effects that’ll make your head spin, and sometimes it seems the issues caused by the medication outweigh its benefits.
Statins are no exception to this.
What Are Statins?
According to the National Cancer Institute, statins are “HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor drugs,” which “[block] an enzyme needed by the body to make cholesterol and [lower] the amount of cholesterol in the blood.”
Doctors commonly prescribe statins to patients with high cholesterol, former heart attack and stroke victims, and individuals at high risk for these conditions.
Commonly prescribed statins include:
- atorvastatin (Lipitor)
- fluvastatin (Lescol XL)
- lovastatin (Altoprev)
- pitavastatin (Livalo)
- pravastatin (Pravachol)
- rosuvastatin (Crestor, Ezallor)
- simvastatin (Zocor, FloLipid)
Do Statins Cause Weight Gain?
Many people wonder if statins cause weight gain or an increase in belly fat. That’s one of the many reasons there have been numerous studies exploring the drug’s side effects.
According to Mayo Clinic, “statins are highly effective and safe for most people, [but] they have been linked to [side effects, including] muscle pain, digestive problems and mental fuzziness.”
The Mayo Clinic does not recognize weight gain or increased abdominal fat as side effects, but they do advise patients to “take it easy when exercising” due to increased muscle pain. It is possible, therefore, that muscle soreness combined with a reduced capacity for vigorous exercise could contribute to weight gain, but it doesn’t mean statins are the direct cause.
A 2015 systematic review published in Current Pharmaceutical Design endeavored to explore the side effects of statins as well in order to provide “evidence- based insight [as to] what are the proven adverse effects of statins and what are the ‘myths’ about them.”
The review determined that side effects included myopathy, rhabdomyolysis, increased activity of liver tests, a slight increase in the incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus, and some adverse renal effects, including renal failure in the most extreme cases.
Researchers specifically refuted a relationship or correlation between statins and cancer, cognitive dysfunction, and memory loss, and nothing was mentioned regarding statins and weight gain.
Statins and Belly Fat – Is There a Correlation Between the Two?
So, statins do not cause weight gain or belly fat, but is there a correlation between them?
A 2013 study published in the Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology “[analyzed] the effect of statins on body and liver fat accumulation in obese Zucker rats.” The study observed that “subcutaneous adipose tissue from rosuvastatin, atorvastatin, fluvastatin and lovastatin treated rats was significantly increased.”
These findings suggest that use of statins increases body fat in users, but why?
A 2014 investigation published in the Journal of the American Medicine Association shed some light when it measured the caloric and fat intake, as well as body mass index changes, of both statin users and nonusers between 1999 and 2010.
Results showed that “caloric and fat intake have increased among statin users over time, which was not true for nonusers. The increase in BMI was faster for statin users than for nonusers.”
Statin users ate more calories and more fat, resulting in, you guessed it, weight gain and belly fat. Why statin users found themselves eating more, however, remained a mystery.
In 2018, a study published in Physiological Reports provided a possible answer when researchers determined that statins decrease the body’s expression of leptin, a naturally-produced enzyme responsible for appetite regulation.
Leptin is what signals to the brain that you’re full, so a decrease here means it takes your body longer to acknowledge that you are full. Statin users weren’t eating more because they didn’t know any better; it was because it took longer for them to feel satiated.
Does Atorvastatin Cause Weight Gain?
Can atorvastatin cause weight gain? Of course, but does it?
No, atorvastatin does not cause weight gain. but it may affect appetite regulation and cause you to eat more calories and fat in order to feel full.
Unless proper nutrition and commensurate calorie-burning exercise is performed to counteract this increase, it is very possible you experience weight gain when taking atorvastatin.
Does Lipitor Cause Weight Gain?
Lipitor is a popular brand of atorvastatin. There is no evidence to suggest that Lipitor causes weight gain, but the research indicating atorvastatin’s role in hampering leptin expression means you will feel hungrier when taking Lipitor.
Given this, we feel there is a correlation between Lipitor and weight gain.
Does Rosuvastatin Cause Weight Gain?
People often wonder if rosuvastatin, and brand name medications like Crestor and Ezallor, causes weight gain. Does Crestor make you gain weight?
Technically, no. Weight gain is not a side effect of Crestor and other rosuvastatin medications. There is no direct relationship between Crestor and belly fat.
Can Crestor cause weight gain though?
Absolutely. You may find yourself feeling hungrier while on rosuvastatin medications, so be mindful of what you’re eating as well as your portion size.
Losing Weight While Taking Statins
While statins don’t specifically cause weight gain, you may need to make some adjustments to your diet and lifestyle to maintain a healthy weight while on medication.
Here are a few pointers:
- Eat right: We’re talking plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains, while avoiding processed foods, sugary drinks, and high-fat foods. For a personalized plan, consider working with a dietitian.
- Eat light: Statins slow down the enzyme that tells your brain you’re full, so it’s easy to go overboard. Measure your portions before sitting down if you’re regularly overeating.
- Exercise regularly: Aerobic exercise and resistance training play an integral role in weight management. Get plenty of moderate intensity exercise and some bursts of higher intensity exercise if your fitness level allows for it. Consider working with a certified personal trainer for a personalized plan.
Most importantly, stay consistent. Diet and exercise will carry you a long way, but you’ll hurt your results if you’re constantly on and off the wagon. Make a plan, stick to it, and you’ll soon enjoy your happiest, healthiest life because of it.
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