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Statins: Fast Food Shops Are Going to Give Out Drugs

By: Sarah Clark (ILEX) - Updated: 7 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Statins Fast Food Junk Food Cholesterol

People who are concerned about the amount of fast food they eat may have some good news if UK researchers suggestions to give out cheap and effective statin pills at fast food joints are taken up.

Statins are medicines that are prescribed to help protect people who are basically healthy, but potentially also at a high-risk of heart disease or a stroke. They can also be given to people who have had a stroke or a heart attack in the past, or are suffering with arterial disease.

Cancelling out the Fast Food effects?

Researchers from the Imperial College of London came up with the idea that fast food outlets should think about handing out the cholesterol-lowering statin pills to help offset the effects of fatty food they were about to consume, because they found that taking one of the pills every day could actually offset the harm caused by a daily cheeseburger and milkshake habit.

While this could prove an effective way of reducing the harmful effects of fast food, it would also be cost effective as the pills would only cost the same as a sachet of sauce - 5p per customer.

The researchers looked at data from trials involving almost 43,000 people to see whether it was likely that statins could override the negative effects of an unhealthy fast food diet. They came to the conclusion that just one statin a day could actually counteract the risk of cardiovascular disease for someone who had a daily intake of a 7-oz cheeseburger and a small milk shake.

Although just taking a pill could never be a substitute for a healthy diet and lifestyle, they said that a statin would at least be one positive choice they could make.

A daily dose of the drug would have no real benefit for anyone with an occasional junk food habit, though – for example if your fast food intake was limited to once or twice a year a bi-annual statin dose would have little effect.

Expert’s opinion on Statins and Fast Food

The British Heart Foundation has urged caution because an unhealthy diet doesn’t just affect cholesterol levels. Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said the suggestion that every fast food meal should be accompanied by a statin pill should not be taken literally.

He warned that an unhealthy, junk food based diet could lead to a whole raft of unhealthy consequences and not just raising cholesterol levels. A bad diet could also be responsible for causing high blood pressure if the junk food contains too much salt (and many fast food choices are salt-loaded) as well as obesity from eating too many calorific foods. Professor Weissberg added that he didn’t consider statins to be any kind of magic bullet, as they were simply a drug given to people to lower their cholesterol levels.

Dr Darrel Francis and colleagues wrote in the American Journal of Cardiology that giving out statins with junk food was similar to putting filters on cigarettes or making drivers wear seat belts.

He said he thought that it was ironic that people could pick up anything from a selection of unhealthy condiments in fast food outlets but statins, which are beneficial to heart health, were generally only available on prescription.

He suggested that it made sense to give out supplements alongside the unhealthy items in fast food outlets.

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