August 13th, 2010
05:11 PM ET

Would you like a statin with that?

A new report in the American Journal of Cardiology suggests that fast food restaurants should offer statins – a popular class of cholesterol-lowering medications – alongside their unhealthy food.

"We propose that the fast food industry is well placed to offer advice and supplements to counteract the cardiovascular harm arising from the foods they purvey," the report said. "These companies already have an infrastructure for providing a variety of condiments... A generic statin could be added to the panoply of items in the self-service tray at little additional cost."

The study – which likened taking a statin before eating to putting on a bike helmet before biking – was based on analyses of other scientific studies, and concluded that taking the drugs could offset the risk of eating fast food just enough to render the food harmless.

"Most of the primary prevention statin regimes we examined, with the exception of pravastatin, had the strength to counteract the increase in risk caused by an unhealthy diet; or eating an additional 36 g[rams] of total fat or 2.8 g[rams] of trans fat per day – approximately equivalent to a Quarter Pounder with cheese and a small milkshake," the British researchers said in the study.

But Dr. Ralph Sacco, president of the American Heart Association, says that not only isn't the solution that simple, it could be dangerous.

"There are other things regarding obesity that are important that a statin won't neutralize, such as diabetes and high blood pressure," Sacco said. "Even though we agree statins have a lot of good evidence in reducing cardiovascular and stroke risk, there are certain risks with any medications."

The risks are relatively infrequent but include liver damage, muscle cramps and long-term muscle damage.

The British researchers concluded that the risks of eating fast food are much greater.

"Statins have been shown to be safe even at high doses," the report says. "The documented safety record of statins is substantially better than that of fast foods, which carry not only direct cardiovascular risks, but other risks due to obesity."

But regardless of whether the benefits do in fact outweight the risks,  Sacco says there are far better ways to reduce the negative effects of obesity.

"If you can control it with diet and exercise, that would be our preference rather than having to take a medicine."

soundoff (114 Responses)
  1. UCLA

    Wow !! I am shocked over this idea.
    While every med on the market obviously does wonderful things for some people and not so wonderful things for others, my concern is where would this stop?
    Someone would simply walk up and say, "I would like a #3 with a statin on the side please." Would people just get the idea that anyone could/should take it? How about an age limit for who could/order it? Who would monitor it? The potential law suites.

    If someone can actually sue and WIN for spilling a cup of hot coffee......when they would have complained if it had been cold, what would happen if they had even a slight reaction.

    What's next........Viagra sold by bartenders ?

    August 16, 2010 at 13:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Davis

    .............and people say that Americans are dumb.... I wonder where they get that idea?

    August 16, 2010 at 14:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Dan G.

    The side effects of drugs have probably killed more people than french fries. It's not governments place to say what you can or can not eat. Just provide the information and keep the Food Police.

    August 16, 2010 at 15:07 | Report abuse | Reply
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    August 16, 2010 at 16:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Joe B.

    I am statin intolerant. So I hope they don't start putting it in foods.

    Also, no one knows if the effect from statins is in its cholesterol-lowering or in its anti-inflammatory properties. Besides, it doesn't show any benefit, even for high-risk people, unless they've already been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease. If you've been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, you shouldn't be eating french fries!

    August 16, 2010 at 16:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Dan

    This is the stupidest thing I have ever read... and that's saying a lot. Sometimes I wish lynching wasn't so frowned upon.

    August 16, 2010 at 17:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Darrel Francis

      Conversely, I am therefore glad that lynching is frowned upon. Please email me at my Imperial College address if you want to read the actual paper, rather than edited extracts that seem to have upset you. So far, no fault has been found in the reasoning or calculations, by people who have read it. A lot of abuse has been directed to me, but (as far as I can judge) not from anyone who has read the actual paper.

      August 18, 2010 at 03:12 | Report abuse |
  7. gabriel

    I was taking simvastatin x40 mg daily for 3 years, my leg muscles ached daily and I couldnt run more than a hundred yards before I had to stop due to the pain, I developed severe cholecystitis and had very poor liver function tests, my memory was failing me also.
    I stopped taking statins a year ago and now I dont feel anything and i feel great.

    November 10, 2010 at 12:24 | Report abuse | Reply
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  9. Eddie O Grady

    Physiotherapists in Tralee, Co. Kerry, Ireland. Here is a link to a short blog from our website describing some of the side effects of statins physiotherapists should be aware of when treating clients presenting with muscular pain while taking statins.


    March 8, 2016 at 15:24 | Report abuse | Reply
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    April 21, 2017 at 05:11 | Report abuse | Reply
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