Have you had your lipid profile lately? If so, inevitably your doctor may suggest that you need statins. Maybe your cholesterol is over 200 — by one or two. Then it is OUT OF RANGE on the blood test and flagged. This should send shivers down your spine because that gives your MD the opportunity to push some drugs on you. Nothing gets my back up more than middle aged patients with total cholesterol levels in the low 200’s who have been put on statins. I have to hold myself back when speaking with a new patient, as I can really go mental over this.
It’s just that almost EVERY middle aged patient I see is on a statin. Most of whom are UNNECESSARILY on this dangerous drug. And it IS a dangerous drug as the FDA is finally admitting.
We are not statin deficient and lowering cholesterol to absurd levels is not the answer to preventing heart disease.
New Safety Warnings on Statins for Cholesterol
Officials from the FDA announced in February of 2012 that they would require additional safety warnings to the labels on statins, including brand names Zocor (now known as simvastatin), Lipitor (atorvastatin) and Crestor (rosuvastatin). These drugs work by inhibiting the enzyme that facilitates the liver’s production of cholesterol.
Statin labels must now include warnings about the rare but serious risk of liver damage, memory loss and confusion, and type 2 diabetes. Certain statins, such as simvastatin, can also raise the risk of muscle weakness – a rare but very serious disorder called Rhabdomyolysis.
The decision came following an internal meeting between the FDA’s Office of Surveillance and Epidemiology and Office of New Drugs, according to Dr. Amy Egan, the FDA’s deputy director of safety in the division of metabolism drug products.
Billion Dollar Sales in Statins for Cholesterol
With statin sales at over $20 billion a year, and more than 20 million Americans on statins, it is a hard call. These are big bucks at stake.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1 in 3 older women — 36% of those between 64 and 74 and 39% of those 75 and over — take statins in an attempt to prevent a first heart attack or to ward off a repeat heart attack. Almost half of all men in those age brackets take a statin.
Risk of Type 2 Diabetes on Statins
Recently they admitted that being on a statin can lead to diabetes. Interesting. Diabetes is a risk factor for heart disease, yet heart disease is what the statin is supposed to ultimately prevent.
This study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that post menopausal women had in increased risk of developing diabetes melitis (DM) when using statins. This investigation included 153,840 women without DM. At baseline, 7.04% reported taking statin medication. There were 10,242 incident cases of self-reported DM over 1,004,466 person-years of follow-up. That is significant.
This meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in June 2011, demonstrated that statin therapy is associated with excess risk of developing diabetes mellitus. In 5 statin trials with 32,752 participants without diabetes at baseline, 2749 developed diabetes and 6684 experienced cardiovascular events. The researchers concluded that “intensive-dose statin therapy was associated with an increased risk of new-onset diabetes compared with moderate-dose statin therapy.”
Risk of Memory Loss and Confusion on Statins
Another compelling reason to avoid statins is because they again recently admitted that long term use of statins can cause memory loss. This is not surprising because in order for the nerve cells in the brain and peripheral nervous system to communicate with each other, they need cholesterol. We need cholesterol for proper brain function.
This study published in the journal, Pharmacotherapy in 2009 surveyed one hundred seventy-one patients (age range 34-86 yrs) who self-reported memory or other cognitive problems associated with statin therapy while participating in a previous statin effects study. The researchers concluded,
Findings from the survey suggest that cognitive problems associated with statin therapy have variable onset and recovery courses, a clear relation to statin potency, and significant negative impact on quality-of-life.
In this paper the researcher, Barbara Golomb, showed that the vast majority of the patients’ symptoms improved upon stopping the drug and many saw symptoms return upon resuming usage. That is significant. Patients know how they feel and what they experience. We do not need multi-center, double blind trials that cost millions of dollars when patients are reporting these problems.
Glial cells, which are part of neurons, secrete a substance that is responsible for the ability of neurons to form synapses, or connections between each other. That substance is a carrier for cholesterol which is complexed to apolipoprotein E–containing lipoproteins. This is really important.
This means that the availability of cholesterol is responsible for the ability of nerve cells to communicate with each other. This happens in the brain and in the peripheral nervous system. The implications of this is tremendous especially because so many “older” people are being diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Isn’t it curious that at the same time the use of cholesterol lowering drugs has increased?
The Food and Drug Administration website now carries this warning:
FDA has been investigating reports of cognitive impairment from statin use for several years. The agency has reviewed databases that record reports of bad reactions to drugs and statin clinical trials that included assessments of cognitive function.
The reports about memory loss, forgetfulness and confusion span all statin products and all age groups… these experiences are rare but that those affected often report feeling “fuzzy” or unfocused in their thinking.
Risk of Liver Damage on Statins
In its label change, the FDA decided to stop recommending routine liver enzyme tests in statin users since the occurrence of serious problems is considered rare. However, they do recommend a liver enzyme test at the outset of therapy. Many doctors still feel more comfortable with the periodic liver tests, just to be sure nothing is happening.
This study published in the British Medical Journal in 2012 showed that statin use was associated with increased risks of moderate or serious liver dysfunction, acute renal failure, moderate or serious myopathy, and cataract. The researchers found that adverse effects were similar across statin types for each outcome except liver dysfunction where risks were highest for fluvastatin. A dose-response effect was apparent for acute renal failure and liver dysfunction. The higher the dose, the worse the effect.
The Entire Premise of Cholesterol Lowering is Baseless
It is now common knowledge that “high” cholesterol is bad. However, the standards created are not based on good science, but rather they are based on the lobbying efforts of Big Pharma and their desire to create a paradigm which forces doctors to prescribe unnecessary drugs and causes patients to worry about an imagined health problem.
Cholesterol is an Essential Part of Our Physiology
Cholesterol is an essential part of the cell membrane. It makes up part of the bi-layer phospholipid membrane that keeps nutrients in the cell and toxins out. This cell membrane has a certain fluidity to it. When it is made up of the wrong fats (from trans fats and polyunsaturated fats) the membrane may be too fluid or too stiff and lose it’s protective quality by allowing small molecules into the cell that otherwise should not be there.
The cholesterol molecule is the basic building block for all the steroid hormones in the body. It shouldn’t be surprising than, that in the U.S. infertility affects 7.3 million individuals. All the sex hormones (progesterone, estrogen, testosterone) are derived from cholesterol. Cholesterol is also the basic building block for vitamin D.
Finally, in order to digest and assimilate fats, the body makes a substance called bile. Bile acids are crucial to the breakdown and absorption of fats. To make bile, the liver uses cholesterol. Therefore, you need cholesterol to digest fats.
What about CoQ10 when Taking Statins?
Most doctors do not inform their patients on statins that they will need to take Coenzyme Q10 because the statins inhibit the synthesis of mevalonate, the building block of both cholesterol and CoQ10.
The heart is fueled by Coenzyme Q10. This substance is also called ubiquinone as it is a powerful antioxident found in the cell membranes of virtually every cell in the body. It is also highly concentrated in the heart.
This substance is part of the body’s energy producing processes in the mitochondria, playing a critical role in ATP formation and it is also a potent antioxidant that protects against DNA damage. There are many consequences associated with depletion of CoQ10 that patients do not know about.
Ironically, CoQ10 is protective of the heart, yet depleted by statins. It just doesn’t make sense to attach this stigma to cholesterol when, in fact, it is a critical substance that our bodies make in order to work properly.
The Real Culprit
What has really happened in the last 40 years is that healthy saturated fats from pastured animals has gone the way of the dinosaurs and people are eating rancid polyunsaturated fats — many of which are heavily laced with pesticides and are genetically modified — which are drivers of inflammation and oxidation. These fats damage tissues and organs and lead to all of the modern diseases we are experiencing today.
Embrace Your Cholesterol – Avoid Statins like the Plague
As with any health issue, read more about the subject. You will really need to own it before making changes in your health care. Then, have a conversation with your medical provider about whether or not you really need to be on a statin. This is a decision between you and your medical provider.
Where to get more information about cholesterol
- cholesterol-and-health.com — written by PhD student of Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition, Chris Masterjohn
- Ignore the Awkward: How Cholesterol Myths Are Kept Alive by Uffe Ravnskov — a good book about the cholesterol issue
What so you think about the cholesterol debate? Leave a comment and let me know!