Friday 13 August 2010

A ‘McStatin’ is not the answer

A study published this week in the American Journal of Cardiology, asks whether taking a medicine tablet can ‘neutralise’ the heart risk of eating junk food.

The authors suggest that people should get a complimentary sachet of the cholesterol-lowering drug, known as statins, when ordering foods such as a cheese burger and milkshake to offset the cholesterol raising effect of the junk food.

Popping a pill may seem like an easy way to look after your heart health – but it’s important people don’t take the findings of this study literally.

For starters, there are more health problems from eating junk food than just raised cholesterol. Junk food is often packed full of salt, which increases your blood pressure and your chance of having a heart attack or stroke, while the high calorie content can lead to weight gain, obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

So a pill that may negate the impact of junk food on your cholesterol will sadly do nothing to stop your blood pressure going through the roof or you piling on the pounds.

People should also know that this study is not based on a clinical trial where people were regularly given statins with burgers and milkshakes and monitored to see the effects.

The findings are based on applying the results of previous studies into the effect of junk food on raising cholesterol and the impact of statins on reducing cholesterol. There is currently no evidence that this would actually work.

The research assumes that every statin and every burger and milkshake would have the same incremental effect on your cholesterol – and we don’t know whether this is the case.

All published studies on statin-use are based on people taking them regularly, not once a week or once a month as they might if statins were dished out in fast-food restaurants. It’s not clear to me whether there would be any benefit from intermittent statin use in this way. The key factor in terms of heart health is likely to be life-time exposure to high cholesterol, something a single dose of a statin would have a negligible effect on.

Statins are very safe drugs and have been proven to reduce cholesterol effectively. They are a vital medicine for many people but we don’t know what the effect of uncontrolled statin-use would be. There may be unwanted side-effects for people with pre-existing illnesses and there are issues around responsibility if something did go wrong. Who would be responsible? The drug companies the restaurants or the people taking the pills?

The ‘McStatin’ is unfortunately no substitute for eating healthily and exercising. It’s fine to enjoy the odd burger or milkshake but we have to remember these are treats and not foods we should be eating every day.

Promoting a pill for junk food would lead us towards medicalising a huge swathe of our population when really people need to take more responsibility for their own health.

By Dr Mike Knapton

Associate Medical Director


lead answer said...

Hi Sir
We should beware of health issues caused by eating some oily and stale foods.So always try to eat the fresh and juicy item in their meal.

Anonymous said...

I'm not an expert (recently suffered Heart Attack 5 weeks ago-so learning lots !!), but completely agree with Dr Knapton's comments - where would it end? You go down to your local pub for "a quick half" and get issued with a Naltrexone (reduces the urge to drink) pill? :)

Celine Adams said...

Thanks for the post! I enjoyed it. I'm looking for easy and effective way to
reducing cholestoral
and I learned something new.

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