Buyer Beware: Statins To Lower Cholesterol Are Not a Panacea

01/21/2010 03:26 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

I'm sure that many of you read about the study showing that Crestor, a popular statin drug manufactured by AstraZeneca, has been found to confer an additional and potentially even greater benefit than its ability to lower cholesterol. Researchers, funded by AstraZeneca, wanted to explain why half of the people who have heart attacks and strokes also have low cholesterol. They set out to determine whether inflammation, as measured by a C-reactive protein test (CRP), was an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Not surprisingly, they found that it was. They also found that Crestor lowered inflammation. Now, the study's researchers and others are recommending that anyone with inflammation (elevated CRP) take a statin to prevent heart disease--even those who are healthy and not at risk for heart disease. My advice? Buyer beware!

The study's so-called medical breakthrough--that reducing inflammation reduces the risk for heart disease--is not new! For years, I, and many other credible holistic doctors, have been saying that inflammation, not high cholesterol, is the root cause of heart disease--and all chronic degenerative diseases for that matter. I'm glad that this message is getting out. I'm just disappointed that the medical community is looking to solve yet another problem with a pill that suppresses a normal body function. But this isn't new either.

What also isn't new is Big Pharma finding a way to get as many people as they can on statins, whether they need them or not. This is why Big Pharma has been instrumental in revising the numbers used to determine "normal cholesterol." Did you know that, according to the New York Times, about 16 to 20 million people already take statins? Despite all the hype, many large studies involving statins have failed to show much benefit. Major studies have concluded there's no difference in death rates or cardiac incidences for those taking statins for high cholesterol. And just when there has been a lot of speculation about whether statins are safe, the makers of Crestor and Lipitor, etc., have identified several million more Americans who might die without these drugs. Hmmm.

It's likely that many medical organizations and government authorities will recommend that doctors now test regularly for C-reative protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation. Although this standard blood test has been around for years, the head researcher on the study (called Jupiter), Dr. Paul M. Ridker, owns a patent on a new CRP test. This, along with the fact that Dr. Ridker was paid by AstroZenica to do the study, raises some questions about its validity.

In the next few years, you may be under increased pressure to take statins, and I caution you not to be persuaded. W. Douglas Weaver, president of the American College of Cardiology, had this to say, "This takes prevention to a whole new level. Yesterday, you would not have used a statin for a patient whose cholesterol was normal. Today, you will."

I would never recommend a statin for inflammation because statins aren't safe. For example, studies have repeatedly shown that statin use lowers CoQ10, an enzyme that's essential to the organs and many functions of the body. Here are some highlights of their dangers:

Muscle weakness and fatigue. This is the most common side effect of statins--about one-third of patients taking Mevacor have experienced muscle problems--and it's the direct result of depletion of CoQ10 in the muscles and heart.

Heart disease and heart failure. CoQ10 levels fall naturally as we age, decreasing by about 50 percent between the ages of 20 and 80. This is one of the reasons why heart attack, stroke, and cancer increase with age. Statin drugs deplete this nutrient even further, thus increasing the risk of cardiomyopathy and heart failure.

Liver Damage. The liver constantly detoxifies the blood and carries out a huge number of enzymatic reactions. Because statins have been shown to cause liver toxicity, it can harm the body in many ways. Even a modest deficiency of CoQ10 can cause liver problems, too. And liver damage can begin the moment one begins taking statin drugs.

Brain and Nerve Damage. CoQ10 is essential for normal brain and nerve function. When it's depleted, dementia can result. This is why many people on statins have difficulty with memory, mood, and clear thinking.

Depression. It's well documented that low cholesterol is associated with depression and may even increase the risk of suicide. It's fairly common for women to begin experiencing anxiety and mood problems after beginning statin drugs. So why would you want to lower cholesterol in a person who has low cholesterol to begin with?

Cancer. Statin drugs have been found to suppress the immune system and this may increase the risk of all cancers. In addition, studies have shown a correlation between taking statins and an increased incidence of breast cancer.

Here's the bottom line. Don't be sucked in by this study. Do some research and understand all the facts around this issue before taking statins. The press reported that the study was stopped because AstroZenica felt that the benefits of Crestor and insights from the study were too important not to share now. But when you dig deeper, you also find out that the study was halted after two years to inflate the alleged benefits of the drug. This combined with the fact that both the company who funded the study and the lead researcher had much to gain from its results make it look suspect.

If you have inflammation, remember that true prevention is accomplished by following an inflammation lowering lifestyle. (I describe how you can live an inflammation lowering lifestyle in detail in my books The Wisdom of Menopause and Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom. This means taking a pharmaceutical grade multi-vitamin/mineral that's high in antioxidants, eating a low-glycemic diet, and having an active, healthy lifestyle--things all shown to promote health and longevity. This goes for reversing inflammation, too.

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This information is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.
All material in this article is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise, or other health program.


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