More and more people are taking cholesterol-lowering drugs, but are the benefits worth the risks?
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Revised guidelines for the use of cholesterol-lowering statins could result in nearly 13 million more Americans taking the drugs, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The sharpest increases would be among people between the ages of 60 and 75 who do not have heart disease, rising from 30.4 to 87.4 percent of men and from 21.2 to 53.6 percent of women.
But for years, many integrative physicians have been pointing out that the underlying rationale for statin therapy-that cholesterol causes heart disease-is faulty. Among these, integrative cardiologist Stephen Sinatra, MD, co-author of The Great Cholesterol Myth and The Great Cholesterol Myth Cookbook, has been a pioneer.
He points out that research simply doesn’t support the cholesterol theory. For example, a study of nearly 140,000 people admitted to hospitals for heart disease revealed they had cholesterol levels below the recommended levels.
“You would think such a result would cause some reflection,” he says; “It didn’t.” Instead, researchers concluded that target cholesterol levels should be even lower, ignoring the fact that driving cholesterol too low is linked to depression, aggression, cerebral hemorrhage, and loss of sex drive. Known statin drug side effects can include muscle weakness and pain, neuropathy, memory loss, irritability, insomnia, nightmares, and liver damage.
After the cholesterol guidelines were revised, Sinatra was the lead author of an article in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, which noted: “There have been no studies that prove dietary cholesterol levels directly cause atherosclerosis.”
The Real Statin Story
Statins have been shown to be beneficial, and sometimes life-saving, for certain people, such as men under the age of 75 with documented coronary artery disease. However, studies have also found that statins increase risk for cataracts and may increase risk for developing diabetes; and among men with diabetes, may accelerate calcification of arteries.
The benefits of the drugs, says Sinatra, actually have nothing to do with lowering cholesterol. Rather it’s their anti-inflammatory, anti-clotting, and perhaps other properties that produce results. Potential benefits always have to be evaluated against potential risks, however-for each individual patient, not with a cookie-cutter approach.
Beating more than 100,000 times a day, without a break, the heart needs fuel to generate a lot of energy. To feed and enhance its function, Sinatra recommends this combination of nutrients:
- CoQ10: Works like spark plugs in every cell, is a powerful antioxidant, and helps to lower blood pressure. Statins deplete CoQ10, and this is partially why they cause side effects.
- D-ribose: Provides the building materials for energy.
- L-carnitine: The heart gets 60 percent of its energy from fat, and L-carnitine transports fatty acids (the broken-down, usable form of fats) into the energy factories within each cell.
- Magnesium: Relaxes the walls of arteries, making it easier for blood to flow, helps to manage blood sugar (which, if elevated, can damage the heart), and helps to lower blood pressure.
- Fish oil: Lowers the death rate from heart disease and heart attacks.
If needed for your personal situation, add one or more of these:
- Nattokinase: A natural blood thinner and clot buster.
- Pantethine (vitamin B5) or niacin: Both reduce harmful forms of cholesterol and triglycerides.
Bluebonnet NutritionCellular Active CoQ10 Ubiquinol contains 100 mg of easier-to-absorb CoQ10 in a new soy-free formula.
Jarrow FormulasPantethine is made with Pantesin, a proprietary form of the vitamin that has been shown to promote healthy cholesterol.
Qualitsy of Life LabsCardionase feature an enhanced form of nattokinase made from non-GMO soybeans for complete heart health.
Natural protocol for high cholesterol
CoQ10: 100 mg daily. Higher doses may be needed to relieve statin side effects or for heart disease.
L-Carnitine: 900 mg daily without food.
D-ribose: 5 g daily, or up to 20 g daily for heart disease.
Magnesium (amino acid chelate): 400-1,000 mg daily.
Fish oil: enough to get at least 1,000 mg of EPA and DHA combined.
Nattokinase: 50 mg daily for one week, then increase to 100 mg daily. Take on an empty stomach. (Don’t take with blood-thinning medications.)
Pantethine: 300 mg, three times daily. A study of Pantesin, a proprietary form of pantethine, found that 300 mg twice daily was an effective dose.
Niacin: Start with 100 mg of a form that is not time-released or flush-free. Take with meals and gradually work up to 500-3,000 mg daily if needed. Flushing will gradually decrease, but you can also take it at bedtime and sleep through the flush.
Vera Tweed has been writing about nutrition, fitness, and healthy living since 1997. She specializes in covering research and expert knowledge that empowers people to lead better lives. She is the author of numerous books, including Hormone Harmony and the User’s Guide to Carnitine and Acetyl-L-Carnitine.