Statins are cholesterol-lowering drugs that are highly effective, inexpensive, and well-tolerated by most people.
They are used to prevent cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death worldwide. Despite their proven effectiveness, many people do not take them as prescribed.
The use of artificial intelligence (AI) has proven to be effective in tracking and analyzing discussions about statins on social media platforms.
A recent study by a team of Stanford Medicine researchers used an AI algorithm to analyze over 10,000 discussions about statins on Reddit.
They found that the discussions were mostly negative and full of misinformation.
The researchers wanted to find out why people are resistant to statins and turned to social media to get a comprehensive picture of statin attitudes.
Previous studies had tracked statin attitudes on Twitter, but the researchers thought that Reddit, with its longer character limit and structured categories (or subreddits), would provide a more comprehensive picture.
They used an AI platform based on an algorithm that was developed to analyze and parse written content from millions of Reddit discussions and published medical studies.
They tasked the algorithm with analyzing over 10,000 discussions about statins and categorized them by sentiment as positive, neutral, or negative.
The algorithm labeled about 67% of the discussions as neutral, about 30% as negative, and only about 3% as positive.
The researchers admitted that these results may reflect a negativity bias, as people with complaints may be more inclined to share their experiences online.
Nevertheless, the results do line up with the findings of previous studies and with what many doctors observe in the clinic. Between 30% and 40% of patients who are prescribed statins don’t take them as directed.
The researchers also wanted to know what people were saying about statins.
To that end, they asked the algorithm to automatically divide discussions into topics, such as ketogenic diets, diabetes, supplements, side effects, statin hesitancy, and pharmaceutical bias.
For example, they found many discussions raising suspicions of pharmaceutical companies having financial incentives to manipulate clinical trials of statins, something for which there is no evidence.
The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that has gained popularity as a weight loss technique. Some also believe it provides other health benefits.
According to the team, while it can help people lose a substantial amount of weight, consuming high amounts of fats often leads to high cholesterol.
The researchers found many discussions by people who had lost weight on the ketogenic diet only to learn that they had developed high cholesterol.
They reported feeling healthier than ever before, leading them to question the link between low-density lipoproteins (the so-called bad cholesterol) and heart disease, something that scientists and doctors have ample evidence to support.
This finding, that enthusiasm for a diet regime could lead patients to question the basic science of cholesterol, was surprising to the researchers.
The researchers also found other topics of misinformation on the social media platform, including supposed alternatives to statins, such as red yeast rice supplements.
According to the team, red yeast rice does contain a kind of naturally occurring statin, but the levels are so low that it won’t substantially change cholesterol levels.
If you care about health, please read studies about what you need to know about the diabetes drug metformin, and people with diabetes should consider taking this vitamin.
For more information about health, please see recent studies about common diabetes drugs that spike heart attack risk, and an anti-inflammatory diet could help prevent fatty liver disease.
The study was conducted by Fatima Rodriguez et al and published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
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