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Natural Awakenings New York City

The Dangers of Cholesterol Medications

Feb 05, 2020 07:41PM

B Michael Biamonte

Tens of millions of Americans are taking cholesterol-lowering drugs—mostly statins—and some “experts” claim that many millions more should be taking them. I couldn’t disagree more.

Statins act by blocking the enzyme in your liver that is responsible for making cholesterol. The fact that statin drugs cause side effects is well established—there are now more than 900 studies proving their adverse effects, which range from muscle problems to heart attacks (yes, the very thing they claim to help lower the risk of) and even increased cancer risk.

What are the reported side effects of statins?

Here are a few, just for starters: 

  • muscle problems; polyneuropathy (nerve damage in the hands and feet); and rhabdomyolysis (a serious degenerative muscle tissue condition)

  • anemia

  • acidosis

  • sexual dysfunction

  • immune depression

  • pancreas or liver dysfunction, including a potential increase in liver enzymes

  • cataracts

Muscle problems are the best known of statin drugs’ adverse side effects, but cognitive problems and memory loss are also widely reported. A spectrum of other problems, ranging from elevated blood glucose to tendon problems, can also occur. There is evidence that taking statins may even increase the risk for developing Lou Gehrig's disease.

What is cholesterol, and why do we need it?

That’s right, we need cholesterol.

Cholesterol is found not only in the bloodstream, but also in every cell in the body, where it supports production of cell membranes, hormones, vitamin D and bile acids that help us digest fat. Cholesterol also helps us form memories and is vital for neurological function.

Is total cholesterol a reliable indicator for heart disease risk?

The American Heart Association recommends a target total cholesterol level below 200 Mg/dL. What the AHA doesn’t say is that unless that number is over 330, total cholesterol level is just about worthless in determining someone’s risk for heart disease.

In addition, the AHA updated its guidelines in 2004, lowering the recommended level of LDL cholesterol from 130 to less than 100—or even less than 70 for patients at very high risk.

Achieving these outrageous and dangerously low targets typically requires taking multiple cholesterol-lowering medications. Therefore, the new AHA guidelines instantly increased the market for these dangerous drugs.

I’ve seen many people with total cholesterol levels over 250 who actually were at low risk of heart disease due to their HDL levels. Conversely, I’ve seen even more people who had cholesterol levels under 200 and were at a very high risk of heart disease based on three measures: their ratio of HDL to total cholesterol; their ratio of triglycerides to HDL; and their c-reactive protein (CRP) levels.

These three additional tests can provide a better idea of what’s going on, but they still don’t show everything.

Can statin drugs cause a heart attack?

Statin drugs have become very popular and have been widely prescribed in recent years to lower high blood cholesterol and thus reduce the risk for heart disease (or so they say). 

These drugs block cholesterol production in the body by inhibiting an enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase early in its synthesis. HMG-CoA reductase shares a biosynthetic pathway with a beneficial co-enzyme called CoQ10. Therefore, one unfortunate consequence of statin drugs is the unintentional inhibition of CoQ10 synthesis. So in the long run, statin drugs could predispose patients to heart disease—the very condition they were intended to prevent—by lowering CoQ10 levels. Doctors who prescribe statin drugs should prescribe C0-Q10 along with them to prevent a heart attack from occurring.

Anyone who is taking cholesterol-lowering drugs or who has been advised to take them needs to address the cause of their condition and, at the very least, make sure they are taking appropriate supplements to help counteract the side effects of these medications. 

Michael Biamonte, CCN, is the founder of the Biamonte Center for Clinical Nutrition, located at 2185 34th Ave., Suite 14D, Astoria, NY. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, visit