Cholesterol medication may improve blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes

Many individuals with type 2 diabetes have cardiovascular problems or conditions that can contribute to heart disease such as high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol levels.

People with cholesterol imbalances may be prescribed statin medications to help reduce their levels of unhealthy LDL cholesterol. However, these drugs have been known to increase blood sugar levels, which may contribute to complications in individuals with type 2 diabetes.

Now, a recent study published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association has shown that a medication used in increase healthful HDL cholesterol levels may also help reduce the effect of statins on blood glucose levels in people who are taking both drugs.

The researchers explained that Torcetrapib is a cholesterol ester transfer protein (CETP) inhibitor. The study involved 6,661 people with type 2 diabetes who took either a statin alone or this type of medication in combination with Torcetrapib.

The study's results showed that at a three-month evaluation, participants who took the combination therapy had fasting blood sugar levels that were 0.34 milimoles per liter lower than those in the single drug group.

Moreover, at six months, subjects on the two-drug regimen had lower fasting insulin levels and improved insulin resistance, compared to those on statins alone.

The scientists said that more research will need to be conducted in order to determine how exactly CETP inhibitor medications help reverse the effects of statins on blood sugar levels, but that their study was large enough to indicate a significant trend.

"The possibility that CETP inhibitor drugs may not only reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, but may also improve the control of blood sugar in people with diabetes, is an exciting prospect that may translate into real health benefits for people with diabetes," said lead study author Philip Barter.

The American Diabetes Association recommends that individuals with type 2 diabetes aim to keep their LDL levels under 100 mg/dL and their HDL above 60 mg/dL in order to promote good heart health.

Lifestyle changes that people can make to help balance their cholesterol levels include abstaining from smoking and high-fat foods, as well as consuming monounsaturated fats, vegetables and whole grains in addition to engaging in regular exercise.