Statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs) are considered by many to be nothing short of pharmaceutical miracles. And if you believe that your blood cholesterol levels are still the major determinant of whether or not you develop heart disease, then I can sympathise with this sentiment. However, we have known for years that cholesterol levels are not the only factor governing cardiovascular health, and that it is actually oxidised cholesterol that is linked to heart disease, not cholesterol per se, and with any pharmaceutical preparation there are always going to be side effects. Imagine, therefore, the horror of some of my regular readers to see the headline “Statins for all over-50s to reduce heart deaths”.
Let us firstly consider the validity of compartmentalising people into age groups. Isn’t it strange how we as a society have just willingly accepted that as we age, degenerative disease is somehow natural or inevitable? We hear comments such as “well, what can you expect at your age?” far too frequently, wouldn’t you say? Maybe I am just a bit sensitive on this issue because I will soon be 50, but John Robbins, in his brilliant book “Healthy at 100” states the opposite to be true – degeneration really does seem to be optional, if we lead a healthy and active life nutritionally, physically and emotionally.
Moving on, let us dig a little deeper into what the article is telling us. The study, published in the online medical journal The Lancet, states that the NHS would save money in the long term from reduced spending on surgical and medical procedures and rehabilitation, offsetting the cost of £240 million per year for blanket statin treatment of all those over age 50.
Worryingly, one of the authors of the study states “if we want to prevent heart attacks and strokes that come out of the blue…”. I beg to differ. No chronic degenerative disease comes out of the blue. A cardiovascular incident such as a heart attack or stroke is merely an acute manifestation of a chronic problem – in this case, excessive cholesterol plaque building up in the blood vessels as a result of long term poor dietary and lifestyle choices and insufficient protection against oxidative stress.
The findings of the study state that for every 1000 people in the low risk category for cardiovascular disease treated with statins for 5 years, there would be just 11 fewer major heart attacks or strokes. That is 1.1% – hardly massively statistically significant, but we are told nonetheless that it is “a benefit that greatly exceeds any known hazards of statin therapy”. So let us look at how statins work, and their side effects as a result of these actions. We can then draw our own conclusions about these “benefits”.
Statins act by blocking the action of HMG-CoA reductase in the liver – an enzyme responsible for the production of cholesterol. There are 900 studies indicating the damaging effects of statins. The main side effects are:
- Muscle problems, polyneuropathy (nerve damage in the hands and feet), rhabdomyolysis (a breakdown of the muscle tissue)
- Immune system dysfunction
- Memory loss
- Liver function impairment
- Pancreatic function impairment
- Sexual dysfunction
- Increased risk of Lou-Gehrig’s disease, diabetes and cancer
Additionally, statins massively deplete the body of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), which is vital for production of cellular energy and proper brain functioning. The muscles, heart and brain have a higher need for CoQ10 than other parts of the body because they are more metabolically active, so it is hardly surprising that statin users experience tiredness and poor brain function, including memory impairment. CoQ10 is also a powerful antioxidant, and oxidative stress (caused by both free radical exposure and lack of dietary antioxidants) is one of the major risk factors for the development of cardiovascular disease. Ultimately, it is even suggested that long term statin usage causes heart failure due to CoQ10 depletion – a complete paradox given that statins are promoted as a drug to prevent cardiovascular events.
For further information on the risks of statin use, please follow this link –
So, do the benefits of statin usage outweigh these side effects? Only you can decide. I, for one, would never go near them (not that I would ever need them anyway!) after seeing what they did to my father. Within weeks he became nauseous, weak and was diagnosed with dementia, the trigger for me to research, write and record my lecture “Feeding the Brain”.
After stopping the statins, and implementing a plant-based dietary regime incorporating juicing and the use of superfoods, herbs and whole food supplementation, his high blood cholesterol “miraculously” normalised, as it has done for many of my clients diagnosed as “in need” of statins.
I would never advise anyone to suddenly discontinue their prescription medication. There is a very small percentage of the population for whom it is stated that dietary and lifestyle choices make no difference to cholesterol levels (those with familial hypercholesterolaemia for example). However, the truth remains that by far the most effective way of lowering, or eliminating your risk of heart disease, regardless of your genetic predisposition, is through a living foods regime incorporating a high proportion of green foods, sprouted foods, juices and superfood supplementation. For more specific personal recommendations, why not consider a consultation? Details of this service can be found here.
For those outside the UK, please click here for details of my e-consultation service.