The study, published in the Lancet, found that many common complications associated with type 2 diabetes, which can lead to blindness and amputations, could be reduced by taking statins.
More than 60,000 Danish patients with diabetes were involved in the study. The microvascular outcomes of the 15,000 among these who regularly used statins were compared with the 47,000 among those who did not.
The results showed that, after a median follow-up of 2.7 years, people who used statins were 34% less likely to be diagnosed with diabetic neuropathy, 40% less likely to develop diabetic retinopathy and 12% less likely to develop gangrene compared to the control group.
Diabetic nephropathy risk
The risk of diabetic nephropathy was similar between both groups, and the results corroborated previous studies which have suggested that statin users are slightly more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes.
The researchers, from the Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark, said the results were ‘surprising’.
Co-author Dr Sune Nielsen said the research showed statin use was not associated with an increase in microvascular complications, as the team expected prior to the study.
But more needs to be done before its positive effect can be verified. He said: ‘Whether or not statins are protective against some forms of microvascular disease, a possibility raised by these data, and by which mechanism, will need to be addressed in studies similar to ours, or in mendelian randomisation studies, but preferably in randomised controlled trials.’