You are here

Statins Lose Again

A frequent reader of this site will know that I am no fan of the drugs known as "statins" as a routine prescription. I have no argument with the clear indication of benefit when statins are used in men with known heart disease, following an actual heart attack, stent placement, or diagnosed myocardial ischemia. In those cases, the research indicates that statins save lives. Although I might consider other options superior, I do not argue with the identified benefits of statins in those cases.

However, statins are now fairly routinely prescribed to anyone with an LDL cholesterol reading over 100 or 130. They are prescribed to women, for whom there has never been a study confirming benefit, and to men with no evidence of heart disease, just perhaps one of the risk factors for heart disease. Statins work by blocking a chain of events in the body, one result of which is lowered LDL. Another result of that blocking is reduced levels of Co-enzyme Q10, known as CoQ10, part of the energy producing apparatus found in every cell of the body. We can increase our levels of CoQ10 by eating organ meats, beef in general, or by taking it as a supplement. Every patient who is placed on a statin drug should absolutely be advised to increase their intake of CoQ10, without which every cell in their body, including the muscle cells in the heart, become a little bit weaker. Speaking of muscle cells, we also know there is a risk of muscle inflammation or outright destruction with statins, accompanied by increased risks of anxiety and depression and diabetes.

A study just released and described in a recent NY Times article describes yet another effect associated with statins. Overweight and sedentary folks were assigned to either a 12-week exercise program or an exercise plus statin regimen. All of the participants would have been likely candidates for statin prescriptions in many physicians' offices. At the end of the 12 weeks, the participants' muscles were studied. Exercise alone improved muscle health, particularly the vigor of the subjects' mitochondrial function - mitochondria are the "powerhouses" of the cell and healthy mitochondria are key to any measure of good health. The statin-treated athletes not only showed no such benefit, but their markers for mitochondrial health actually declined during the study. Not only did they fail to benefit from the exercise, they were actually worse off than before.

A conversation with a physician well-versed in nutritional or functional medicine would be a wise step before anyone without a history of serious heart disease considers starting a statin medication.  

Related Articles: