Statins Block Effects of Exercise in Overweight Patients


Statins—drugs prescribed to lower cholesterol levels and prevent heart disease—may be interfering with an ability to lose weight, according to new research.

The most commonly prescribed drugs in the world, statins, like the name brand Zocor (simvastatin) showed an ability to slow or negate the healthy benefits of exercise in overweight or obese adults. Exercise is key to a healthy heart, and critical in losing weight.

University of Missouri researchers conducted the study, measuring cardiorespiratory fitness levels in 37 obese people between the ages of 25-59. They all had low exercise habits at the onset of the study. Over a twelve-week period, the entire group followed the same exercise regimen. Half of the group also took 40 mg of simvastatin each day, while the other group did not. According to the researchers, the participants who did not receive the statins increased their cardiorespiratory health on average by 10 percent. Among the statin group, the change was just an increase of 1.5 percent.

The researchers also noted a skeletal muscle mitochondrial content—where oxygen becomes energy in the muscles—decreased by 4.5 percent in the statin group. The exercise-only group saw a 13 percent increase in skeletal muscle mitochondrial content, which is considered a normal response.

“Statins have only been used for about 15-20 years, so we don’t know what the long-term effects of statins will be on aerobic fitness and overall health,” said John Thyfault, an associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at MU. “If the drugs cause complications with improving or maintaining fitness, not everyone should be prescribed statins.”

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.