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Dangers of Statin Drugs: Part 1 In A 3-Part Series

Written by Wellness Club on August 24, 2009 – 11:46 am -

HealthBeat News is pleased to bring you a special report on statin drugs and cholesterol that comes to us by special arrangement and kind permission of the authors, Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, PhD. Many of our patients and HealthBeat News readers have been asking about these important subjects recently, and Dr. Myatt felt that even though we here at The Wellness Club have written frequently on this subject in the past, this article provides another scholarly and fully referenced look at this subject that is well worth reading.

 

This article will be presented in three parts in your HealthBeat Newsletter: Part 1, this part, will look at the “problem” of hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol), how statins work, and just what cholesterol is and why our bodies need this controversial substance. In Part 2 we’ll look at the statin drugs and some of their many side-effects, and Part 3 will review a large number of scholarly studies on cholesterol and statins that the drug companies would rather you don’t know about as they plainly demonstrate the dangers of these drugs and of our wrong-headed obsession with reducing cholesterol levels to un-natural and un-healthy levels.

 

After you, our HealthBeat News readers, have received all three parts of this series we will post it along with the full list of references on our Wellness Club website – but HealthBeat News subscribers will have access to this important and informative article first!

 

Dangers of Statin Drugs: What You Haven’t Been Told About Popular Cholesterol-Lowering Medicines

By Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, PhD

 

Part 1 in a 3-part series

 

Hypercholesterolemia is the health issue of the 21st century. It is actually an invented disease, a “problem” that emerged when health professionals learned how to measure cholesterol levels in the blood. High cholesterol exhibits no outward signs–unlike other conditions of the blood, such as diabetes or anemia, diseases that manifest telltale symptoms like thirst or weakness–hypercholesterolemia requires the services of a physician to detect its presence. Many people who feel perfectly healthy suffer from high cholesterol–in fact, feeling good is actually a symptom of high cholesterol!

Doctors who treat this new disease must first convince their patients that they are sick and need to take one or more expensive drugs for the rest of their lives, drugs that require regular checkups and blood tests. But such doctors do not work in a vacuum–their efforts to convert healthy people into patients are bolstered by the full weight of the US government, the media and the medical establishment, agencies that have worked in concert to disseminate the cholesterol dogma and convince the population that high cholesterol is the forerunner of heart disease and possibly other diseases as well.

Who suffers from hypercholesterolemia? Peruse the medical literature of 25 or 30 years ago and you’ll get the following answer: any middle-aged man whose cholesterol is over 240 with other risk factors, such as smoking or overweight. After the Cholesterol Consensus Conference in 1984, the parameters changed; anyone (male or female) with cholesterol over 200 could receive the dreaded diagnosis and a prescription for pills. Recently that number has been moved down to 180. If you have had a heart attack, you get to take cholesterol-lowering medicines even if your cholesterol is already very low–after all, you have committed the sin of having a heart attack so your cholesterol must therefore be too high. The penance is a lifetime of cholesterol-lowering medications along with a boring lowfat diet. But why wait until you have a heart attack? Since we all labor under the stigma of original sin, we are all candidates for treatment. Current edicts stipulate cholesterol testing and treatment for young adults and even children.

The drugs that doctors use to treat the new disease are called statins–sold under a variety of names including Lipitor (atorvastatin), Zocor (simvastatin), Mevacor (lovastatin) and Pravachol (pravastatin).

How Statins Work

The diagram below illustrates the pathways involved in cholesterol production. The process begins with acetyl-CoA, a two-carbon molecule sometimes referred to as the “building block of life.” Three acetyl-CoA molecules combine to form six-carbon hydroxymethyl glutaric acid (HMG). The step from HMG to mevalonate requires an enzyme, HMG-CoA reductase. Statin drugs work by inhibiting this enzyme–hence the formal name of HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors. Herein lies the potential for numerous side effects, because statin drugs inhibit not just the production of cholesterol, but a whole family of intermediary substances, many if not all of which have important biochemical functions in their own right.

Consider the findings of pediatricians at the University of California, San Diego who published a description of a child with an hereditary defect of mevalonic kinase, the enzyme that facilitates the next step beyond HMG-CoA reductase.1 The child was mentally retarded, microcephalic (very small head), small for his age, profoundly anemic, acidotic and febrile. He also had cataracts. Predictably, his cholesterol was consistently low–70-79 mg/dl. He died at the age of 24 months. The child represents an extreme example of cholesterol inhibition, but his case illuminates the possible consequences of taking statins in strong doses or for a lengthy period of time–depression of mental acuity, anemia, acidosis, frequent fevers and cataracts.

What About Aspirin?

The other drug recommended for prevention of heart attacks and strokes is aspirin. Estimates suggest that 20 million persons are taking aspirin daily for prevention of vascular accidents. Yet at least four studies have shown no benefit. A study using Bufferin (aspirin and magnesium) showed no reduction in fatal heart attacks and no improvement in survival rate but a 40 percent decrease in the number of nonfatal heart attacks. Commentators reported these results as showing the benefit of aspirin, ignoring the fact that magnesium is of proven benefit in heart disease. Aspirin inhibits the enzyme Delta-6 Desaturase, needed for the production of Gamma-Linoleic Acid (GLA) and important anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. This fact explains many of aspirin’s side effects, including gastrointestinal bleeding and increased risk of macular degeneration and cataract formation. Other side effects include increased risk of pancreatic cancer, acid reflux, asthma attacks, kidney damage, liver problems, ulcers, anemia, hearing loss, allergic reactions, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness and even hallucinations (James Howenstine, NewsWithViews.com, April 21, 2004).

Cholesterol is one of three end products in the mevalonate chain. The two others are ubiquinone and dilochol. Ubiquinone or Co-Enzyme Q10 is a critical cellular nutrient biosynthesized in the mitochondria. It plays a role in ATP production in the cells and functions as an electron carrier to cytochrome oxidase, our main respiratory enzyme. The heart requires high levels of Co-Q10. A form of Co-Q10 called ubiquinone is found in all cell membranes where it plays a role in maintaining membrane integrity so critical to nerve conduction and muscle integrity. Co-Q10 is also vital to the formation of elastin and collagen. Side effects of Co-Q10 deficiency include muscle wasting leading to weakness and severe back pain, heart failure (the heart is a muscle!), neuropathy and inflammation of the tendons and ligaments, often leading to rupture.

Dolichols also play a role of immense importance. In the cells they direct various proteins manufactured in response to DNA directives to their proper targets, ensuring that the cells respond correctly to genetically programmed instruction. Thus statin drugs can lead to unpredictable chaos on the cellular level, much like a computer virus that wipes out certain pathways or files.

Squalene, the immediate precursor to cholesterol, has anti-cancer effects, according to research.

The fact that some studies have shown that statins can prevent heart disease, at least in the short term, is most likely explained not by the inhibition of cholesterol production but because they block the creation of mevalonate. Reduced amounts of mevalonate seem to make smooth muscle cells less active, and platelets less able to produce thromboxane. Atherosclerosis begins with the growth of smooth muscle cells in side artery walls and thromboxane is necessary for blood clotting.

Cholesterol Synthesis

Dangers of Statin Drugs: Part 1 In A 3 Part Series

Cholesterol

Dietary Trials

Doctors and other health professionals claim there is ample proof that animal fats cause heart disease while they confidently advise us to adopt a lowfat diet; actually the literature contains only two studies involving humans that compared the outcome (not markers like cholesterol levels) of a diet high in animal fat with a diet based on vegetable oils, and both showed that animal fats are protective.

The Anti-Coronary Club project, launched in 1957 and published in 1966 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, compared two groups of New York businessmen, aged 40 to 59 years. One group followed the so-called “Prudent Diet” consisting of corn oil and margarine instead of butter, cold breakfast cereals instead of eggs and chicken and fish instead of beef; a control group ate eggs for breakfast and meat three times per day. The final report noted that the Prudent Dieters had average serum cholesterol of 220 mg/l, compared to 250 mg/l in the eggs-and-meat group. But there were eight deaths from heart disease among Prudent Dieter group, and none among those who ate meat three times a day

In a study published in the British Medical Journal, 1965, patients who had already had a heart attack were divided into three groups: one group got polyunsaturated corn oil, the second got monounsaturated olive oil and the third group was told to eat animal fat. After two years, the corn oil group had 30 percent lower cholesterol, but only 52 percent of them were still alive. The olive oil groups fared little better–only 57 percent were alive after two years. But of the group that ate mostly animal fat, 75 percent were still alive after two years.

Of course, statins inhibit the production of cholesterol–they do this very well. Nowhere is the failing of our medical system more evident than in the wholesale acceptance of cholesterol reduction as a way to prevent disease–have all these doctors forgotten what they learned in biochemistry 101 about the many roles of cholesterol in the human biochemistry? Every cell membrane in our body contains cholesterol because cholesterol is what makes our cells waterproof–without cholesterol we could not have a different biochemistry on the inside and the outside of the cell. When cholesterol levels are not adequate, the cell membrane becomes leaky or porous, a situation the body interprets as an emergency, releasing a flood of corticoid hormones that work by sequestering cholesterol from one part of the body and transporting it to areas where it is lacking. Cholesterol is the body’s repair substance: scar tissue contains high levels of cholesterol, including scar tissue in the arteries.

Cholesterol is the precursor to vitamin D, necessary for numerous biochemical processes including mineral metabolism. The bile salts, required for the digestion of fat, are made of cholesterol. Those who suffer from low cholesterol often have trouble digesting fats. Cholesterol also functions as a powerful antioxidant, thus protecting us against cancer and aging.

Cholesterol is vital to proper neurological function. It plays a key role in the formation of memory and the uptake of hormones in the brain, including serotonin, the body’s feel-good chemical. When cholesterol levels drop too low, the serotonin receptors cannot work. Cholesterol is the main organic molecule in the brain, constituting over half the dry weight of the cerebral cortex.

Finally, cholesterol is the precursor to all the hormones produced in the adrenal cortex including glucocorticoids, which regulate blood sugar levels, and mineralocorticoids, which regulate mineral balance. Corticoids are the cholesterol-based adrenal hormones that the body uses in response to stress of various types; it promotes healing and balances the tendency to inflammation. The adrenal cortex also produces sex hormones, including testosterone, estrogen and progesterone, out of cholesterol. Thus, low cholesterol–whether due to an innate error of metabolism or induced by cholesterol-lowering diets and drugs–can be expected to disrupt the production of adrenal hormones and lead to blood sugar problems, edema, mineral deficiencies, chronic inflammation, difficulty in healing, allergies, asthma, reduced libido, infertility and various reproductive problems.

NEXT: In Part 2 we’ll look at the statin drugs and some of their many side-effects

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