Those of you who have read my other article on cholesterol lowering drugs known as ‘statins’ will realise that I have a dim view of their supposed benefits. However, I did not include in that article research suggesting that rather than simply being of absolutely minimal benefit, they may well be causing more harm than good.
A brief list of facts about statins:
Fact 1 – As reported on 3 News, in 2010 there were around 1.5 million statin prescriptions in NZ. That’s the equivalent of approximately 300,000 Kiwis routinely taking these drugs.
Fact 2 – Bloomberg Business Week reported that the biggest selling statins prevented heart attacks in just one per cent of the patients prescribed it (over the three and a third years of the trial). Put another way; 99% of people who took statins received no benefit.
Fact 3– Research suggests that statins are of no benefit to those who have not had an initial heart attack
Fact 4 – Statins increase the risk of diabetes in post-menopausal women.
Fact 5 – Other side effects of statins include; muscle damage, muscle cramps, muscle weakness, exercise intolerance, sexual dysfunction, as well as liver and nerve damage in approximately 10-15 percent of patients.
A Cochrane Group study of statin research concluded that they don’t reduce overall chance of death. So, this begs the obvious question; if taking the drugs doesn’t reduce your chance of dying, but use of the drug exposes you to a wide range of side effects, not to mention the huge cost to the tax payer, why exactly are they being prescribed?
Let’s give the drug companies who manufacture these drugs the benefit of the doubt for a moment, and assume that they stop heart attacks in one per cent of patients, as claimed in their own newspaper ads. This leads to a couple of interesting scenarios at the doctor’s office.
Imagine, you are overweight and you go to your doctor. Your GP gives you the obligatory cholesterol test, from which it is found that you have high cholesterol. Your GP then says to you “I am going to put you on this statin drug to lower your cholesterol”. In all likelihood you will take the drug without asking any further questions, as 300,000 kiwis already have.
However, let’s imagine a second scenario; your GP says to you “You have high cholesterol, and that means that statistically you have a higher chance of having a heart attack” Your GP then says “I can prescribe you a statin drug to lower your cholesterol, but I really have to tell you, at best it will stop a heart attack in just one person in every hundred I prescribe it to, and I should also mention that the side effects include numerous muscle issues, feeling lethargic and also, a significant increase in your chance of getting diabetes.”
Would you take the Statins?
I think that unless you were in an extreme high risk group, you would be making a very unwise decision. My concern with these drugs is that they have many side effects and research as to their benefits is dubious at best. Rather than prescribe them only to people who are in the highest risk group (those who have already had one heart attack, as well as other risk factors), they are prescribed to virtually everyone who fits just one of several criteria. There are even doctors who want them included in food products, sold over the counter, and routinely prescribed to children.
The best advice doctors should be offering to people they feel are at risk of heart attacks is to lose weight, move more, stop smoking, and drink less. At the very least, GP’s should be advising people of the risks versus the benefits of statins.
There are other options for heart health that involve diet. Eating oily fish twice per week, i.e. salmon or tuna is a great start. Oily fish contain high concentrations of Omega-3 fatty acids that are proven to assist with numerous factors associated with heart health, including blood pressure and cholesterol, along with a host of other benefits (brain, eye, joints and anti-inflammatory activity).
In the absence of a diet rich in Omega-3’s, then supplements are definitely a great alternative. Omega-3’s are amongst the most researched of all supplements, to date there have been over 17,000 independent studies. Our new formula Lester’s Oil contains both high concentration Omega-3 fish oil and Co-Q10 for heart health.
Another dangerous side effect of statins, and certain blood pressure lowering drugs is that they have long been known to reduce your Co-Enzyme Q10 (Co-Q10) levels. Co-Q10 is a vitamin-like substance found mainly in the mitochondria (energy factories) of our cells. It is particularly concentrated in our hearts, kidneys, and liver. Interestingly, there are reports which link Parkinson’s disease to the use of statins, however the jury is still out on this, but it should be noted that there are human trials underway using high doses of Co-Q10 to alleviate the symptoms.
As with many of our articles, they are designed to inform, and to help you ask the right questions of your doctor. Before you stop using any medication, always speak to your doctor first.