Do Statin Drugs Do More Harm Than Good?

Statin drugs lower cholesterol by inhibiting an enzyme that helps the body make cholesterol.  Sounds good in theory, but do potential health benefits outweigh a growing evidence of risky side-effects?  The FDA just expanded its advice on statin drug risks to include cognitive impairment such as memory loss and confusion, increased risk of type II diabetes and increased risk of muscle damage when mixed with other common medications.  Remember, the heart is muscle.  Another important point about statin drugs: the same enzyme inhibited by statin drugs is needed for the body to make CoQ10, a critical antioxidant required for mitochondrial ATP synthesis and antioxidant protection of cell membranes and lipoproteins.  In other words, CoQ10  is vital to heart health and its biosynthesis is inhibited by statin drugs.  Most of the hype around health benefits of statin drugs came about after the 2008 Jupiter Trial was published, boasting major lowering of stroke, heart attack and death risk.  Not surprisingly, this study was funded by Astra-Zeneca, the makers of statin drug Crestor.  Two years after publication of the Jupiter trial, the Archives of Internal Medicine published three papers refuting the results.  They concluded that the study and statistics were grossly flawed and “do not support the use of statin treatment for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease”!  Although the FDA is only adding a few labeled risks, there have been over 900 studies showing risks of statin drugs to include: cognitive loss, neuropathy, anemia, acidosis, frequent fevers, sexual dysfunction, increased cancer risk, pancreatic dysfunction, immune suppression, liver dysfunction and muscle degeneration.  While most people with elevated “bad” cholesterol can lower and optimize levels with diet and lifestyle changes, there are subgroups that may benefit from statin drugs.  Those with a genetic defect called familial hypercholesterolemia and those at very high risk of heart attack (based on heart attack risk factors, NOT cholesterol levels) could benefit from statins. If you are not in one of these 2 categories, statin drugs would likely do more harm than good. What can you do to Optimize cholesterol levels?                                                                                                   

I specifically use the term “optimize” rather than lower, because our body needs cholesterol in the correct ratios to form cell membranes, vitamin D and hormones.  Some simple steps to naturally optimize cholesterol include:

  • Reduce high glycemic foods like fructose, sugars and processed grains.
  • Consume plenty of fiber and raw foods.
  • Take a good quality omega-3 fish oil supplement, free of heavy metals and PCBs.  Fish oils have been well documented to lower total cholesterol while increasing HDL (protective) cholesterol.
  • Exercise!  Move your body every day.
  • Don’t smoke and don’t drink alcohol in excess.
  • Avoid all trans fats, shown to lower HDL (good) and increase LDL (bad)
  • If you eat meat, make sure it is naturally grass fed.  Grass fed beef has 4 times the amount of omega-3 fats compared to grain-fed beef.
  • Get plenty of quality sleep.

Source: American Journal of Cardiovascular Drugs 2008; 8:373-418                         

Source: J Animal Sci (1993) 71(8):2079-88                                                                                                   


 Posted by Dr. Allison Gandre  ND