Statins are too easily prescribed by general practitioners if it turns out that someone has an elevated cholesterol level. This happens frequently, especially because the reference value of cholesterol has been adjusted downwards over time. In 2017, the upper limit has been set at 5 (before 2004 this value was still 7). The question, however, is whether statin supplementation is really healthy due to its severe side effects. Although a lot of research is being done into the effects of statins, not all negative parts of these studies are published.
- Definition of statins
- Side effects of statins
- The coenzyme Q10
Definition of statins
According to Wikipedia, statins are: a cholesterol synthesis inhibitor (=statin) is a cholesterol-lowering drug (which also appears to have an anti-inflammatory effect) that intervenes in the synthesis of cholesterol through the rate-determining step (HMG-CoA reductase) in the production of cholesterol to brake. A statin is prescribed (indication) for high cholesterol levels, diabetes and to prevent cardiovascular disease.
Statins, because they work as anti-inflammatories, seem to be a very good medicine to prevent cardiovascular complaints. But doctors easily ignore the potential side effects of statins. And since these side effects can be quite severe, it certainly makes sense to read more about them.
Side effects of statins
These can be distinguished into:
- muscle problems
- 9% greater risk of type 2 diabetes, because the blood glucose level is changed by a certain protein
- memory disorders
- a greater risk of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease
- a decrease in libido
The most common side effect of statins is muscle pain.* Muscle problems range from muscle pain or joint pain to increased muscle breakdown. The heart is also a muscle and can therefore function less well in statin users. The use of statins also increases the risk of heart failure.
In addition, they increase the risk of diabetes in 9% of cases.** This percentage increases if one takes a higher dose of statins. In addition, diabetes is an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which statins are intended to combat. However, in women just before menopause, the additional risk of diabetes due to the use of statins is considerably higher, namely 71%. So there is a significant increase in the risk of diabetes, especially among younger users of statins. Diabetes is preceded by a long period of rising blood sugar levels, which causes more and more insulin to be produced by the pancreas. With too much insulin, because too much glucose is absorbed, the cells adapt by reducing the number of insulin receptors. At a certain point, this may result in the body no longer being able to produce insulin.
There is also an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease from taking statins. A person’s response to statin use depends on their genetic makeup. Statins, among other things, shut down the body’s production of coenzyme Q10. With a shortage of Q10, the body will decide to sacrifice some cells so that some other cells can be protected. Therefore, in that case, one person will develop Alzheimer’s disease, while someone else will develop heart failure, for example. In animal models, statins appear to knock out T-helper cells, the elite troops of the immune system. This results in a higher risk of certain types of cancer. Statins also stimulate the production of new blood vessels. Tumors need nutrients and therefore blood for their growth. They depend on an extensive network of blood vessels.
The coenzyme Q10
The above muscle complaints, but also memory disorders, can be caused by the effect of statins.
They block the activity of the enzyme HMG CoA reductase. This is responsible for the production of mevalonate in the body, the precursor of both cholesterol and coenzyme Q10. Q10, also called ubiquinone or uniquinol , is involved in numerous physiological processes and is essential for the functioning of the mitochondria. These are the energy factories in our cells. Someone who takes statins robs his body not only of cholesterol, but also of the Q10 that it normally produces. The higher the dose, the less of both essential factors are circulating. The cells that need Q10 most are those of the nervous tissue, skeletal muscles, but especially those of the heart muscle. (1*)
If the heart muscle does not receive enough Q10, there is a risk of chronic heart failure. Older people taking statins can develop this within six months to a year, while in younger people it can take several years. Chronic fatigue and muscle pain are the first signs of a Q10 deficiency. Followed at a later stage by shortness of breath. The body produces Q10 itself, except in the case of a lack of vitamins B6, B11, B12 and C.
The benefits of using statins do not always outweigh all the risks of taking statins. To be clear, statins do offer some protection against a heart attack. However, this is probably not due to the cholesterol-lowering effect, but due to the fact that statins are also anti-inflammatory. This allows them to stabilize the plaque in the arteries and thus prevent an infarction. Taking statins only seems to be an option for pre-existing heart problems. However, there are also other anti-inflammatories on the market that have much fewer side effects. If you take statins for heart problems, always take Q10 with it. In that case, also take less vitamin C (max. 200 mg) and E (max. 100 IU), because these vitamins influence the anti-inflammatory effects of statins.
Please note: when drinking grapefruit juice, you should at least take a lower dose of statins.