Statins may provide effective relief from the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), but more research is necessary to confirm their positive effects.

IBD is a term that describes two different conditions: ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease. Both conditions involve chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Long-term inflammation can cause damage to the GI tract, which can lead to additional symptoms and complications.

Statins may be able to prevent the conditions from getting worse. This article explores what researchers know about statins and their potential use in IBD.

Statins are a type of medication that people often use as a treatment or preventive measure for cardiovascular disease. Statins can help lower cholesterol levels and protect the heart and arteries.

For heart disease, statins work by reducing the liver’s ability to produce cholesterol, which leads to lower levels of cholesterol overall. They also help by:

  • reducing the amount of fat in the blood
  • increasing the level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good,” cholesterol
  • preventing plaque from breaking apart and causing a heart attack or stroke

Research suggests that they may also be effective in treating other conditions.

In recent years, the number of cases of IBD in the United States has increased, leading researchers to look for new treatment options for the condition. Due to the anti-inflammatory effects of statins and their potential usefulness in treating other inflammatory diseases, scientists have turned to these medications as a possible treatment for IBD.

However, despite some promising studies, additional research is necessary to prove that statins can serve as an effective treatment in IBD.

Current treatments for UC include anti-inflammatory medications and colectomies. Colectomies are surgical procedures that involve the removal of part of the colon. About 30% of people living with UC end up needing a colectomy.

Some evidence suggests that statins may provide certain benefits to people living with UC by reducing the need for more intensive treatment. According to a 2021 study, taking statins for cholesterol decreases the risk of needing hospitalization or a colectomy by close to 50% in people with UC.

However, other studies have produced mixed results regarding the effectiveness of statins in treating IBD — UC in particular. For example, a 2021 study found that statins may help prevent Crohn’s disease, but they had little effect on UC.

In addition, a review from 2020 found that current evidence does not fully support the use of statins for the treatment or prevention of IBD. The researchers note that although studies have shown that statins can help prevent UC in animals, human studies have produced mixed results.

In short, statins may eventually become a treatment for UC, Crohn’s disease, or IBD in general, but additional research is necessary to confirm that they can effectively help treat or prevent the conditions.

Very limited, older evidence has suggested that statins may increase the risk of UC. According to a 2002 study, the manufacturer of simvastatin (Zocor) reported six cases of UC that doctors had attributed to the use of the medication. The medication had also exacerbated an additional two cases of UC.

The study found that other statins had similar effects on a very small number of users, who either developed UC or experienced worsening symptoms. As a result, the researchers concluded that UC is a rare side effect of statins.

Although this older study suggested that some people may develop or experience worsening symptoms associated with UC, newer studies have found opposite effects. For instance, the aforementioned 2021 study noted a significant reduction in the severity of UC for people taking statins.

Most evidence suggests that statins do not cause IBD. In fact, statins seem to help lower inflammation in the body, potentially treating many inflammatory diseases. Although researchers need to carry out further work to prove that statins can be effective in treating and preventing IBD, it is unlikely that these drugs will cause or exacerbate IBD.

Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system attacks healthy cells in the body. The conditions are often associated with chronic inflammation.

Studies have shown that statins may help reduce inflammation in the body. Therefore, rather than causing autoimmune diseases, statins could have positive implications for the prevention and treatment of these diseases.

Statins are a type of medication that doctors use to lower high cholesterol levels and help prevent heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular conditions. In recent years, researchers have turned to statins as a possible treatment for IBD.

While some studies suggest potential benefits for either UC or Crohn’s disease, more research is necessary to prove that they can effectively and safely prevent or treat IBD.