Cholesterol lowering medications have been hailed as the wonder drugs of the century. Patients with even mildly elevated cholesterol often are encouraged by their doctors to begin taking a statin drug.
But do these medications live up to the hype? And are there hidden side effects that patients should know about?
First, let’s look at a few facts.
In America, cholesterol-lowering statins are the most prescribed class of drugs. In this country one out of every four adults is taking a statin medication. Most have been told that by doing so, they will prevent or slow the progress of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is hardening of the arteries, a major risk factor for chest pain or angina, heart attack and stroke.
At least one physician, who aptly goes by the name of John Reckless, has even gone as far as advocating for statin-fortified drinking water.
Although there’s not much doubt that statins can lower cholesterol, the question is whether the sometimes serious side effects of these drugs are worth the risks.
Dr. David Newman of TheNNT.com doesn’t believe they are.
Dr. Newman conducted a meta-analysis of statin studies and discovered that, while statins have a cholesterol-lowering effect in people with and without pre-existing heart disease, the effect is so small that it doesn’t justify the negative side effects that statins cause.
Below is a table showing the effects of statin drugs in people with and without pre-existing heart problems and took statins for five years.
|With Heart Disease||Without Heart Disease|
|Overall Improvement||4% showed significant improvement||2% showed significant improvement|
|Prevented a heart attack||1.2% were helped||1.6% were helped|
|Prevented a second heart attack||2.6% were helped||Not Applicable|
|Prevented a stroke||0.8% were helped||0.4% were helped|
|Caused muscle damage||10% were harmed||10% were harmed|
The Dangers of Statin Drugs
Over 900 studies have been published demonstrating the harmful side effects of the use of status.
A recent study published in Atherosclerosis shows that there is a 52% absolute increase in risk of atherosclerosis in people who started taking statin drugs. At the time of the study, none of the study’s participants had any known cardiovascular disease.
In another study published in Diabetic Care, patients with type 2 diabetes and advanced atherosclerosis who used statins frequently had significantly higher amounts of arterial plaque when compared to patients who did not use statins as often. In a sub-group of participants not taking statins, the rate at which arterial plaque developed increased when they began taking statins.
Other studies have also documented serious side effects, including the following:
- Liver and pancreas failure due to increased enzymes caused by statin intake
- Muscle damage that can lead to loss of muscle cells, kidney failure and death
- Increased blood sugar and higher risk of type-2 diabetes
- Memory loss, depression, forgetfulness (which can become amnesia) and other neurological side effects that have been seen to stop once the use of statins is also stopped
- •Sexual dysfunction
Lowering cholesterol without statins
Consider the following cholesterol supplements that offer safer alternatives. They are quite effective at lowering cholesterol, but pose none of the harmful side effects caused by prescription statin medications.
1. Coenzyme Q10
CoQ10 is an antioxidant found in every cell of the human body.
The primary role of CoQ10 is to convert food into energy for cell growth and maintenance. CoQ10 triggers the production of enzymes used for digesting food along with other essential chemical processes. As an antioxidant, it also protects the cells from damage caused by highly reactive free radicals.
On its own, Coenzyme Q10 even more effective in protecting the heart than any statin drug. Research has proven that CoQ10 minimizes the risk for congestive heart failure and reduces low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels, (commonly known as “bad” cholesterol).
Sadly, studies have shown that statins can also reduce the body’s stores of CoQ10. So if you’re currently using statins, it’s important to take a CoQ10 supplement to relieve muscle pain, protect the liver from damage and prevent the onset of negative side effects caused by statins.
2. Inositol Hexanicinate (IHN)
Since the 1950s, regular niacin or Vitamin B3 has been touted as an effective agent for lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels. However, it does have one major drawback: Depending upon the dose, Niacin can cause a flushing of the skin, sometimes accompanied by pinkness and itching.
However there is a safe alternative. Inositol hexaniacinate (IHN) is a time-released compound of six niacin molecules that delivers the benefits of this important B vitamin, without any complications to the liver.
Inositol hexaniacinate has been proven to be effective, particularly in managing abnormally high levels of fat in the bloodstream. This condition is called hyperlipidemia and is a major risk factor for atherosclerosis and heart disease.
3. Red Yeast Rice Extract
Red yeast rice extract is created by fermenting rice with various strains of the Monascus purpureus yeast.
The resulting product contains several ingredients that help control cholesterol levels, including sterols, isoflavones and monounsaturated fatty acids. However, it is the monacolin K in red yeast rice extract that makes it particularly effective for lowering cholesterol.
Monacolin K is a natural chemical that has a structure similar to the drugs lovastatin and mevinolin. Studies show supplementing with red yeast rice extract leads to up to 33% reduction in LDL and a possible increase in high-density lipoproteins (HDL) or “good” cholesterol.
4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
In the last 200 years, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in the human diet has jumped from 1:1 to 25:1. This can in fat ratio has created problems, since we need a good balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in our diet to stay healthy.
Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet (commonly known by the appropriate acronym, SAD), delivers too much Omega 6 and not enough Omega 3 fatty acids. Experts are quick to point out that the extremely lopsided proportions are a major cause of heart disease and a host of other problems.
It’s the docosahexanoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in omega-3 fatty acids that are important in eliminating the risk factors for high cholesterol, high blood pressure and high triglycerides. DHA and EPA also lowers the risk for heart attack, stroke and abnormal heart rhythms in people who already had a heart attack.
Moreover, DHA and EPA work together to slow down the buildup of plaque and blood clots in the arteries. This effectively prevents another major risk factor for heart disease – atherosclerosis.
Studies involving the indigenous people of the arctic, the Inuits, and their native diets, show that they receive plenty of omega-3 fatty acids in the form of salmon, tomcod, whitefish, pike and char. Researchers found that the natives have high levels of HDL (good cholesterol) and reduced triglycerides. putting the majority of the Inuit population at very low risk for major heart problems. For those of us, who don’t eat this much fish, a fish oil supplement is a good option.
Following your doctor’s advice to lower your cholesterol levels doesn’t have to include a prescription for a statin drug. There are many ways to naturally lower cholesterol. In this article alone, we’ve outlined 4 of the best supplements to lower cholesterol. Before you commit to a powerful prescription medication, you might want to try one of these cholesterol supplements for yourself.