By: Dr. Mercola
Tens of millions of Americans are taking cholesterol-lowering drugs – mostly statins – and some “experts” claim that many millions more should be taking them,including children as young as eight.
I couldn’t disagree more.
Statins are HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, that is, they act by blocking the enzyme in your liver that is responsible for making cholesterol (HMG-CoA reductase).
The enzyme that these drugs block is actually responsible for far more than making cholesterol.
It also makes CoQ10 which is vital for your mitochondrial health.
The fact that statin drugs cause side effects is well established – there are now 900 studies proving their adverse effects, which run the gamut from muscle problems to diabetes, to birth defects and increased cancer risk.
Now you can add exercise-related muscle damage to the ever growing list of harmful side effects.
Statins Can Make Exercise Harmful to Your Health
A recent study examined the effects of statin drugs on the likelihood of exercise-related injury. The researchers measured myoglobin and creatine kinase levels in subjects who were running the Boston marathon. Elevated creatine kinase is a sign of damage to muscles.
Subjects being treated with statins, along with a similar number of nonstatin-treated controls, were examined the day before the race, immediately afterwards, and the day following. The researchers found that the exercise-related increase in creatine kinase 24 hours after exercise was greater in the statin users.
According to the study, published in The American Journal of Cardiology:
“In conclusion, our results show that statins increase exercise-related muscle injury.”
The authors also state that their findings suggest susceptibility to exercise-induced muscle injury from statin use increases with age. This is tragic, to say the least, as exercise is imperative for optimal health, especially as you get older. I’m not surprised by this finding however, as we’ve long known about the harm these drugs do to muscles. They can even cause life-threatening muscle degeneration, a condition known as rhabdomyolysis.
Related to this latest finding are the revelations that statin drugs decrease heart muscle function, andincrease your risk of stroke. I wrote about that this past summer. It should be quite clear that if you’re running marathons, decreased heart function and increased risk of muscle injury is far from a desired combination. But as I mentioned earlier, the detrimental effects of this drug do not stop there. Other side effects may be even more troubling.
Statin-Induced Diabetes: A Hidden Epidemic?
Earlier this year, I published an article by Suzy Cohen, R.Ph., (widely recognized as “America’s most trusted pharmacist”) in which she discussed the hidden link between statins and diabetes.
A pattern has appeared where many who start taking a statin drug end up being diagnosed with diabetes several months later. Cohen’s research into this hidden connection prompted her to write a book on the subject called “Diabetes Without Drugs.” However, this diagnosis is incorrect. What many of these patients have is actually hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), caused by the medication. In essence, it is not genuine diabetes, and can be reversed simply by discontinuing the drug.
A recent meta-analysis confirmed that statin drugs are indeed associated with increased risk of developing diabetes.
The researchers evaluated five different clinical trials that together examined more than 32,000 people. They found that the higher the dosage of statin drugs being taken, the greater the diabetes risk. The “number needed to harm” for intensive-dose statin therapy was 498 for new-onset diabetes – that’s the number of people who need to take the drug in order for one person to develop diabetes.
In even simpler terms, one out of every 498 people who are on a high-dose statin regimen will develop diabetes. (The lower the “number needed to harm,” the greater the risk factor is.)
(As a side note, the “number needed to treat” per year for intensive-dose statins was 155 for cardiovascular events. This means that 155 people have to take the drug in order to prevent one person from having a cardiovascular event.) The following scientific reviews also reached the conclusion that statin use is associated with increased incidence of new-onset diabetes:
- A 2010 meta-analysis of 13 statin trials, consisting of 91,140 participants, found that statin therapy was associated with a 9 percent increased risk for incident diabetes. Here, the number needed to harm was 255 over four years, meaning for every 255 people on the drug, one developed diabetes as a result of the drug in that period of time.
- In this 2009 study, statin use was associated with a rise of fasting plasma glucose in patients with and without diabetes, independently of other factors such as age, and use of aspirin, β-blockers, or angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors. The study included data from more than 345,400 patients over a period of two years.On average, statins increased fasting plasma glucose in non-diabetic statin users by 7 mg/dL, and in diabetics, statins increased glucose levels by 39 mg/dL.
How Do Statins Cause Diabetes?
Statins appear to provoke diabetes through a few different mechanisms. The primary mechanism is by increasing your insulin levels, which can be extremely harmful to your health. Chronically elevated insulin levels cause inflammation in your body, which is the hallmark of most chronic disease. In fact, elevated insulin levels lead to heart disease, which, ironically, is the primary reason for taking a statin drug in the first place!
It can also promote belly fat, high blood pressure, heart attacks, chronic fatigue, thyroid disruption, and diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and cancer.
Secondly, statins increase your diabetes risk by raising your blood sugar. When you eat a meal that contains starches and sugar, some of the excess sugar goes to your liver, which then stores it away as cholesterol and triglycerides. Statins work by preventing your liver from making cholesterol. As a result, your liver returns the sugar to your bloodstream, which raises your blood sugar levels.
These drugs also rob your body of certain valuable nutrients, which can also impact your blood sugar levels. Two nutrients in particular, vitamin D and CoQ10, are both needed to maintain ideal blood glucose levels.
If You Take Statins, You MUST Take CoQ10
It’s extremely important to understand that taking a statin drug without also taking CoQ10 puts your health in serious jeopardy. Unfortunately, this describes the majority of people who take them in the United States.
CoQ10 is a cofactor (co-enzyme) that is essential for the creation of ATP molecules, primarily in your mitochondria, which you need for cellular energy production. Organs such as your heart have higher energy requirements, and therefore require more CoQ10 to function properly. Statins deplete your body of CoQ10, which can have devastating results.
As your body gets more and more depleted of CoQ10, you may suffer from fatigue, muscle weakness and soreness, and eventually heart failure. Interestingly, heart failure, not heart attacks, are now the leading cause of death due to cardiovascular diseases. Coenzyme Q10 is also very important in the process of neutralizing free radicals. So when your CoQ10 is depleted, you enter a vicious cycle of increased free radicals, loss of cellular energy, and damaged mitochondrial DNA.
If you decide to take a CoQ10 supplement and are over the age of 40, it’s important to choose the reduced version, called ubiquinol. Ubiquinol is a FAR more effective form – I personally take 1-3 a day since it has such far ranging benefits, including compelling studies suggesting improvement in lifespan.
Did You Know? Statins are FORBIDDEN in Pregnancy?
Like thalidomide and Accutane, statin drugs are a class X drug with regard to pregnancy, meaning they are contraindicated and should NOT be taken by pregnant women. They can cause significant damage to the nervous system of a developing embryo, and are associated with miscarriages and birth defects. A class X rating also indicates that the potential risks always outweigh the benefits, so pregnant women should never be on a statin drug.
This issue is particularly important as currently one in four Americans over 45 take statins, but there is a MAJOR push to start prescribing them to younger individuals under the pretext of “prevention. This is the very age group that is most likely to get pregnant.
Part of the problem is likely related to the fact that the drug reduces cholesterol, which is essential for proper fetal development. This isdiscussed in my interview with Dr. Stephanie Seneff (embedded below).
Babies also need cholesterol sulfate in utero, which is significantly reduced when you take a statin.
According to Dr. Seneff, a woman has about 1.5 units of cholesterol sulfate normally in her blood. When she gets pregnant, her blood levels of cholesterol sulfate steadily rise, and it also begins to accumulate in the villi in the placenta – which is where nutrients are transferred from the placenta to the baby. At the end of pregnancy the cholesterol sulfate in the villi rises to levels of about 24 units. Both cholesterol and cholesterol sulfate are needed for proper brain- and heart development and function.
Other Health Hazards Associated with Statin Drugs
GreenMedInfo.com has a list of 71 diseases that may be associated with statin drugs, and this is only the tip of the iceberg. There are actually over 900 studies showing the risks of statin drugs, which include:
Oftentimes statins do not have any immediate side effects, and they are quite effective, capable of lowering cholesterol levels by 50 points or more. This makes it appear as though they’re benefiting your health, and health problems that develop later on are frequently misinterpreted as brand new, separate health problems.
It’s also worth noting that, according to a review published in the American Journal of Cardiovascular Drugs, adverse effects are dose dependent (the higher your dose, the greater your risk of harmful side effects), and your health risks are also amplified by a number of factors, such as:
Vast Majority do Not Need Statin Drugs
That these drugs have proliferated the market the way they have is a testimony to the power of marketing, corruption and corporate greed, because the odds are very high – greater than 100 to 1 – that if you’re taking a statin, you don’t really need it.
To understand why you don’t need a statin drug, you first need to realize that cholesterol is NOT the cause of heart disease.
If your physician is urging you to check your total cholesterol, then you should know that this test will tell you virtually nothing about your risk of heart disease, unless it is 330 or higher. HDL percentage is a far more potent indicator for heart disease risk. Here are the two ratios you should pay attention to:
- HDL/Total Cholesterol Ratio: Should ideally be above 24 percent. If below 10 percent, you have a significantly elevated risk for heart disease.
- Triglyceride/HDL Ratio: Should be below 2.
Your body NEEDS cholesterol – it is important in the production of cell membranes, hormones, vitamin D and bile acids that help you to digest fat. Cholesterol also helps your brain form memories and is vital to your neurological function. For more information about cholesterol, and why conventional advice to reduce your cholesterol to ridiculously low levels is foolhardy, please listen to this interview with Dr. Stephanie Seneff.
How to Optimize Your Cholesterol Levels, Naturally
There’s no doubt that statin drugs can wreak havoc with your health, and there’s compelling evidence that most people who currently take them simply do not need them. The fact is that 75 percent of your cholesterol is produced by your liver, which is influenced by your insulin levels. Therefore, if you optimize your insulin level, you will automatically optimize your cholesterol!
By modifying your diet and lifestyle in the following ways, you can safely modify your cholesterol:
- Reduce, with the plan of eliminating, grains and sugars in your diet, replacing them with mostly whole, fresh vegetable carbs. Also try to consume a good portion of your food raw.
- Make sure you are getting enough high quality, animal-based omega 3 fats, such as krill oil.
- Other heart-healthy foods include olive oil, coconut and coconut oil, organic raw dairy products and eggs, avocados, raw nuts and seeds, and organic grass-fed meats as appropriate for your nutritional type.
- Exercise daily.
- Avoid smoking or drinking alcohol excessively.
- Be sure to get plenty of good, restorative sleep.
Unlike statin drugs, which lower your cholesterol at the expense of your health, these lifestyle strategies represent a holistic approach that will benefit your overall health – which includes a healthy cardiovascular system.
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By Andreas Moritz
Cholesterol is an essential building block of every cell in the body, required for all metabolic processes. It is particularly important in the production of nerve tissue, bile and certain hormones. On average, our body produces about half of a gram to one gram of cholesterol per day, depending on how much of it the body needs at the time. By and large, our body is able to produce 400 times more cholesterol per day than what we would obtain from eating 3,5 ounces (100 grams) of butter. The main cholesterol producers are the liver and the small intestine, in that order. Normally, they are able to release cholesterol directly into the blood stream, where it is instantly tied to blood proteins. These proteins, which are called lipoproteins, are in charge of transporting the cholesterol to its numerous destinations. There are three main types of lipoproteins in charge of transporting cholesterol: Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL), Very Low Density Lipoprotein (VLDL), and High Density Lipoprotein (HDL).
In comparison to HDL, which has been privileged with the name ‘good’ cholesterol, LDL and VLDL are relatively large cholesterol molecules; in fact, they are the richest in cholesterol. There is good reason for their large size. Unlike their smaller cousin, which easily passes through blood vessel walls, the LDL and VLDL versions of cholesterol are meant to take a different pathway; they leave the blood stream in the liver.
The blood vessels supplying the liver have a very different structure from the ones supplying other parts of the body. They are known as sinusoids. Their unique, grid-like structure permits the liver cells to receive the entire blood content, including the large cholesterol molecules. The liver cells rebuild the cholesterol and excrete it along with bile into the intestines. Once the cholesterol enters the intestines, it combines with fats, is absorbed by the lymph and enters the blood, in that order. Gallstones in the bile ducts of the liver inhibit the bile flow and partially, or even fully, block the cholesterol’s escape route. Due to back-up pressure on the liver cells, bile production drops. Typically, a healthy liver produces over a quart of bile per day. When the major bile ducts are blocked, barely a cup of bile, or even less, will find its way to the intestines. This prevents much of the VLDL and LDL cholesterol from being excreted with the bile.
Gallstones in the liver bile ducts distort the structural framework of the liver lobules, which damages and congests the sinusoids. Deposits of excessive protein also close the grid holes of these blood vessels (see the discussion of this subject in the previous section). Whereas the ‘good’ cholesterol HDL has small enough molecules to leave the bloodstream through ordinary capillaries, the larger LDL and VLDL molecules are more or less trapped in the blood. The result is that LDL and VLDL concentrations begin to rise in the blood to levels that seem potentially harmful to the body. Yet even this scenario is merely part of the body’s survival attempts. It needs the extra cholesterol to patch up the increasing number of cracks and wounds that are formed as a result of the accumulation of excessive protein in the blood vessel walls. Eventually, though, the life-saving cholesterol begins to occlude the blood vessels and cut off the oxygen supply to the heart.
In addition to this complication, reduced bile flow impairs the digestion of food, particularly fats. Therefore, there is not enough cholesterol made available to the cells of the body and their basic metabolic processes. Since the liver cells no longer receive sufficient amounts of LDL and VLDL molecules, they (the liver cells) assume that the blood is deficient in these types of cholesterol. This stimulates the liver cells to increase the production of cholesterol, further raising the levels of LDL and VLDL cholesterol in the blood.
The ‘bad’ cholesterol is trapped in the circulatory system because its escape routes, the bile ducts and the liver sinusoids, are blocked or damaged. The capillary network and arteries attach as much of the ‘bad’ cholesterol to their walls as they possibly can. Consequently, the arteries become rigid and hard.
Coronary heart disease, regardless of whether it is caused by smoking, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, overeating protein foods, stress, or any other factor, usually does not occur unless gallstones have impacted the bile ducts of the liver. Removing gallstones from the liver and gallbladder can not only prevent a heart attack or stroke, but also reverse coronary heart disease and heart muscle damage. The body’s response to stressful situations becomes less damaging, and cholesterol levels begin to normalize as the distorted and damaged liver lobules are regenerated. Cholesterol-lowering drugs don’t do that. They artificially reduce blood cholesterol, which coerces the liver to produce even more cholesterol. But when extra cholesterol is passed into the bile ducts, it remains in its crystalline state (versus soluble state) and, thereby, turns into gallstones. People who regularly use cholesterol-lowering drugs usually develop an excessively large number of gallstones. This sets them up for major side effects, including cancer and heart disease.
Cholesterol is essential for normal functioning of the immune system, particularly for the body’s response to the millions of cancer cells that every person makes in his body each day. For all the health problems associated with cholesterol, this important substance is not something we should try to eliminate from our bodies. Cholesterol does far more good than harm. The harm is generally symptomatic of other problems. I wish to emphasize, once again, that ‘bad’ cholesterol only attaches itself to the walls of arteries to avert immediate heart trouble, not to create it. This is confirmed by the fact that cholesterol never attaches itself to the walls of veins. When a doctor tests your cholesterol levels, he takes the blood sample from a vein, not from an artery. Although blood flow is much slower in veins than in arteries, cholesterol should obstruct veins much more readily than arteries, but it never does. There simply is no need for that. Why? Because there are no abrasions and tears in the lining of the vein that require patching up. Cholesterol only affixes itself to arteries in order to coat and cover up the abrasions and protect the underlying tissue like a waterproof bandage. Veins do not absorb proteins in their basements membranes like capillaries and arteries do and, therefore, are not prone to this type of injury.
‘Bad’ cholesterol saves lives; it does not take lives. LDL allows the blood to flow through injured blood vessels without causing a life-endangering situation. The theory of high LDL being a principal cause of coronary heart disease is not only unproved and unscientific. It has misled the population to believe that cholesterol is an enemy that has to be fought and destroyed at all costs. Human studies have not shown a cause-and-effect relationship between cholesterol and heart disease. The hundreds of studies so far conducted on such a relationship have only shown that there is a statistical correlation between the two. And there should be, because if there were no ‘bad’ cholesterol molecules attaching themselves to injured arteries we would have millions of more deaths from heart attack than we already have. On the other hand, dozens of conclusive studies have shown that risk of heart disease increases significantly in people whose HDL levels decrease. Elevated LDL cholesterol is not a cause of heart disease; rather, it is a consequence of an unbalanced liver and congested, dehydrated circulatory system.
If your doctor has told you that lowering your cholesterol with medical drugs protects you against heart attacks, you have been grossly misled. The #1 prescribed cholesterol-lowering medicine is Lipitor. I suggest that you read the following warning statement, issued on the official Lipitor web site:
“LIPITORï (atorvastatin calcium) tablets is a prescription drug used with diet to lower cholesterol. LIPITOR is not for everyone, including those with liver disease or possible liver problems, and women who are nursing, pregnant, or may become pregnant. LIPITOR has not been shown to prevent heart disease or heart attacks.
“If you take LIPITOR, tell your doctor about any unusual muscle pain or weakness. This could be a sign of serious side effects. It is important to tell your doctor about any medications you are currently taking to avoid possible serious drug interactions…”
My question is, “Why risk a person’s health or life by giving him/her a drug that has no effect, whatsoever, in preventing the problem for which it is being prescribed?” The reason why the lowering of cholesterol levels cannot prevent heart disease is because cholesterol does not cause heart disease.
The most important issue is how efficiently a person’s body uses cholesterol and other fats. The body’s ability to digest, process and utilize these fats depends on how clear and unobstructed the bile ducts of the liver are. When bile flow is unrestricted and balanced, both the LDL and HDL levels are balanced as well. Therefore, keeping the bile ducts open is the best prevention of coronary heart disease.
This is an excerpt from my book THE AMAZING LIVER AND GALLBLADDER FLUSH
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Reducing high cholesterol levels without using statins
Hi, this is a very good question from Margarita, how can you reduce high levels of cholesterol without statins?
Now statins are cholesterol lowering drugs that are used by the medical system and the medical industry to combat and lower cholesterol levels because they believe or they tell us that high cholesterol is dangerous for our heart… something that by the way has never ever been proven.
They have been able to show that people who suffer from heart disease can have high cholesterol but this is a correlation, not a cause-effect relationship. In fact when you look at popular websites of drug makers like Lipitor, the Lipitor website, you will find that there is a statement that taking those drug does not diminish your risk of heart attack or heart disease, so it does not really show there is not a single scientific study that shows that by taking these medications your risk of heart disease goes down. In fact fifty percent or more people who suffer heart attack… they have no cholesterol in their blood vessels whatsoever.
The other thing is that cholesterol has been vilified for a long time particularly given a bad name LDL liquid LDL cholesterol which is named a bad cholesterol but, there is no bad cholesterol in the body. There are different kinds of cholesterol, depends on whether cholesterol is moving… fats are moved by particular proteins through the liver and fat is moving out of the liver by another set of particular proteins and depending on the proteins, that will determine whether we call it LDL or VLDL which is very low density liver protein or HDL which is suppose to be a good cholesterol.
In reality all of these cholesterols are essential for the body they all serve a particular purpose for example if you cut yourself in the finger or have another wound somewhere else or there is a wound in the blood vessel which can cause bleeding then one the first hormones that go there is cholesterol. Cholesterol is a hormone, it is a stress hormone as well, so it goes up when you are stressed or if exert your brain and nervous system you are producing extra cholesterol in order to combat that particular threat because when you are under threat, you cause potential damage to blood vessels and to brain cells, you are using up a lot of more cholesterol, so the body has to make more cholesterol.
The other thing is that the most of the body, most of the cells in the body are composed of cholesterol. All hormones are made of cholesterol, so it is not something that we should vilify and put a bad label on it. We need that. If cholesterol is accumulating in the blood vessels and they are creating an obstruction, then that is not done because the body is trying to harm itself or create an obstruction and the blood is not flowing properly through these blood vessels, but the body is doing that to prevent heart attacks.
The reason why that happens is that once again, cholesterol is a stress hormone, it goes to every wound, to any lesion, any part that is damaged or inflamed, so if there is an inflammation of the blood vessel, for example by eating sugar, and sugar increases the uric acid content in the blood and once the uric acid starts attacking the blood vessels then the blood vessels can get inflamed and the same thing happens when you eat these animal proteins, these animal proteins end up getting built into what is know as the basal membranes of the blood vessel wall then that creates an inflammatory response in that blood vessel and eventually it can cause bleeding, and when blood clots are formed because of blood escaping from these blood vessels, then the blood clots could enter the heart and cause a heart attack. To prevent the heart attack the body will have to patch up these wounds and the best patching material is cholesterol, and it is the first aid bandage.
It bandages, it will prevent these blood clots from escaping causing heart attacks or strokes. So cholesterol is a friend, it is not our enemy. And when the cholesterol… obviously, it is very soft… and so these soft patches they could easily break free, so the body needs to solidify them and integrate calcium, inorganic calcium, in that cholesterol material to make it really hard and crusty. In fact ninety percent of these collusions, consist of calcium and not cholesterol. Cholesterol is only a small part of it, maybe five, seven, eight percent of it so, it is not the enemy that we are making it out to be.
And that is why using statins to reduce cholesterol levels, in my opinion, and there are many, many studies to show that it is outright dangerous. It can cause liver damage and now it is shown to actually cause heart disease, something that the statin was supposed to prevent. It can also cause brain damage and obviously cause stones in the bile ducts of the liver by basically preventing the liver from making extra cholesterol that hinders the liver to produced bile to digest your food properly, and then a lot of undigested food will decompose, the bacteria produce toxins, those toxins go back into the blood stream, into the liver, and producing more stones, and then a vicious cycle is being created. It is very, very difficult to escape from it, that is why Statins have such a horrendous number of side effects including liver damage and muscle damage that eventually the whole body can develop many illnesses and diseases for which then new drugs are prescribed that try to suppress those symptoms as well. Whenever you try to subdue a symptom like high cholesterol then you are getting in to trouble.
The other things about cholesterol, there is a lot of misinformation about what is normal levels of cholesterol and what is abnormal, and there are studies that are… very, very elaborate studies… that confirm that the older you grow, the higher the cholesterol actually needs to be. So a person who is aged sixty should have a cholesterol 260 or little more than that, whereas nowadays, they are immediately telling a person of age sixty if he has cholesterol 260 or a little more he should definitely take statins and they are actually telling people now that 200 is too much at age forty which is ridiculous, their cholesterol does not do any harm, it just not a vicious thing that somehow causes damage to the body, it is part of the protective mechanism and should never be brought down artificially. There are natural ways to make the need for increased cholesterol less and that is changing the diet, exercising, sun exposure which has been shown to generate vitamin D and once the body has normal vitamin D levels, cholesterol levels automatically drop. So it is something to consider. Regular sun exposure without sunscreen of course otherwise this benefit does not occur.
The other thing to consider with regard to cholesterol is eating foods that are low in animal proteins and there should be no processed fats which always create damage to blood vessel walls and cause a need for more cholesterol to patch up these inflammation centers or spots in the blood vessels. So it’s very, very important to consider a diet that is vegetarian. There is a lot of talk now about people like Bill Clinton, former President of the United States being on a vegan diet because his blood vessels were continuously getting damaged and he is doing much better now and so many other people have recognized that eating vegan, vegetarian diet, will benefit them to the point that heart disease and blood vessels actually become reversed completely by following such a diet.
So I wholeheartedly recommend making those changes, cleaning out the liver, getting out in the sun, drinking enough water, keep the blood thin because of that and staying away from any of these harmful drugs which cause a person to enter a vicious cycle from which it is very, very difficult to escape and to recover.
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