Niacin and Cholesterol Reduction!

NiacinMany in the health care profession have forgotten about the positive relationship between niacin and cholesterol.  Instead they have promoted drugs[/intlink] to control cholesterol levels.  That’s unfortunate because niacin can be just as effective.  

What is Niacin?

Niacin is a member of the vitamin B family.  Specifically it is vitamin B3 or nicotinic acid.  Because it’s a water soluble vitamin it needs to be replenished on a daily basis.  The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of niacin is 2-12 mg/day for children, 14 mg/day for women and 16 mg/day for men.  This RDA is the minimum required to prevent niacin deficiency which can be characterized by the following conditions: 

  • Slow metabolism
  • Decreased tolerance to the cold
  • Irritability
  • Poor concentration
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Depression
  • Dementia 

Niacin can be obtained through your dietary intake of the following foods:  liver, heart, kidney, chicken, beef, tuna, salmon, milk, eggs, avocados, dates, tomatoes, leaf vegetables, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, asparagus, nuts, whole grain products, legumes, mushrooms, and brewer’s yeast.  

Cooking preparation is important since niacin is readily lost when food is cooked in water.  Coupled with poor eating habits and foods depleted of their essential nutrients, many people insure their niacin RDA through vitamin supplements.  If you choose a vitamin supplement then it is recommended that niacin is best taken with the other B vitamins and vitamin C.  

Niacin is used by your body to help turn carbohydrates into energy.  Niacin also aids your nervous system, digestive system, skin, hair and eyes.  Niacin is also needed to help metabolize fats, which brings us to its ability to reduce cholesterol levels. 

Niacin and Cholesterol Levels

To positively affect cholesterol levels, your niacin intake must be substantially greater than the RDA.  As reported in the November 1998 American Journal of Cardiology, therapeutic levels of niacin have been clearly shown to: 

  1. Lower LDL (BAD) and total cholesterol levels.
  2. Raise HDL (GOOD) cholesterol levels.
  3. Lower triglyceride (fat) levels. 

Not only does niacin lower the “Bad” LDL cholesterol but it also substantially increases the “Good” HDL cholesterol.  Many feel that increasing HDL cholesterol is more important than lowering LDL cholesterol.  This is because the high-density lipoproteins (HDL) will sweep up the low-density lipoproteins (LDL) in your blood stream to keep them from damaging your cells[/intlink]

Niacin can raise the HDL “Good” cholesterol by 15 to 35 percent.  The Mayo Clinic estimates that for every 1 milligram per deciliter increase in HDL cholesterol you reduce your risk for heart attack by 3 percent.  This means that the proper therapeutic use of niacin can lower the risks for atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases.    

Warning!  If you are going to substantial increase your niacin intake above RDA levels then you should always discuss it first with your doctor.  The reason why is that niacin can cause side effects when taken in high doses.  This brings us to the reason why niacin has fallen out of favor in the treatment of cholesterol? 

Flushing and Other Niacin Side Effects!

From over-the-counter supplements to prescription formulations, niacin comes in a variety of forms.  Some are fast-acting and others are designed to act over a long period thru time-released encapsulation.  

For therapeutic use to positively affecting your cholesterol levels, usually high doses of niacin (1000 milligrams or more) are administered.  At this level most people will experience a “niacin flush” which is a temporary shunting (or vasodilation) of blood to the skin surface.  The flush usually lasts for 15 to 30 minutes and will cause the skin to redden, feel warm to the touch, and may cause you to perspire.  Although annoying, the “niacin flush” isn’t harmful.  Some have found that taking an aspirin shortly before you take your niacin can help to alleviate this flushing effect.  Hot drinks and alcohol can increase this flushing so it’s recommended that you avoid them when taking niacin. 

To reduce the potential for flushing, some people will take a time-released niacin formulation.  While this may help reduce the non-threatening, but inconvenient flushing, it increases the risk of harmful liver enzyme elevation.  The continuous release of niacin into the liver can disrupt healthy methylation reactions that are essential to liver health.  Fast acting niacin supplements do not usually present this problem.  

It’s also important to note that therapeutic use of niacin does not mean taking 1000 milligrams at one time.  Usually the total intake recommended by a qualified health practitioner is divided throughout the day in levels of 300 to 600 mg of niacin taken twice per day, and with a meal to help offset potential side effects. 

Other potential side effects from therapeutic levels of niacin can include upset stomach, headache, dizziness from a drop in blood pressure, itching, increased blood sugar levels, and elevated liver enzymes.  Thus, people with liver or kidney problems and diabetics need to take extra precaution.  Working with a qualified health professional can help you find the right dose and form of niacin to help minimize these side effects. 

Niacin, Statin Drugs and Current Research!

Niacin, like oxide[/intlink], seems to help statin drugs work more effectively.  Research has shown that niacin, when used with some statins, can increase HDL “Good” cholesterol by 50 percent or more.  Additionally, this combination also reduces LDL “Bad” cholesterol levels more than when statins are used by themselves. 

Statin drugs have some very specific and dangerous side effects so utilizing other natural methods to help lower, and potentially eliminate statin usage can be beneficial for long term heart health.  However, it is always best to check with your doctor and pharmacist before taking niacin with another medication to avoid any potential and dangerous drug interactions.  

It’s also important to note that researchers are coming close to finding a niacin formulation that helps to prevent the dreaded niacin flush.  Much of this research is at Duke University Medical Center and concentrates on G proteins.  According to Robert Walters, M.D.,

“Niacin stimulates production of a vasodilator that dramatically increases blood flow to the face, causing the flush and the hot, prickly sensation – and beta-arrestin 1 is the culprit that enables that to happen.  Interestingly, however, beta-arrestin 1 plays no role whatsoever in niacin’s ability to lower cholesterol and fatty acids.  The G proteins do that.” 

There is also a growing body of work looking at how flavonols – a class of plant-derived polyphenols – could inhibit this niacin flush.  The two flavonoids that have shown the greatest potential are quercetin and luteolin.  Quercetin is a compound that has been shown to promote endothelial function while supporting healthy blood glucose levels.  Luteolin seems to suppress dangerous cytokines that are associated with flushing and other inflammatory reactions.  A small human clinical trial used a combination of niacin, quercetin and luteolin to reduce the unpleasant side effects of niacin supplementation by an estimated 70 percent.  This trial needs to be tested on a larger population base to confirm these findings.    

Because over-the-counter niacin supplements can be just as good as prescription niacin in helping to increase your HDL cholesterol and lower your LDL cholesterol many people are opting for this method in their cholesterol reduction battle.  Just make sure that it’s a reputable company that standardizes its ingredients and formulations.  And, it’s important to note that if you choose to use dosages of niacin higher than the standard RDA, please consult with a qualified medical practitioner so that a proper program can be developed to your specific health goals. 

Together we can work to save a million lives! 

Dan Hammer 

The information contained in this blog is for general information purposes only and never as a substitute for professional medical advice or medical exam.  The information contain in this blogging website has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease without the supervision of a qualified medical doctor.

Fiber and Cholesterol Reduction!

Lady and AppleCholesterol reduction through the use of statin drugs has become a big and profitable business for the pharmaceutical industry.  As more and more people have opted for a pill to help control their cholesterol levels fewer people are using fiber as their first line of defense.  If you read my blog post“Cholesterol and Statin Drugs – Happily Married or Headed for Divorce?”[/intlink] you know that these types of drugs are not without risks.   

So why has the use of fiber declined?  For most people compliance is the issue!

This post will provide you with 3 effective steps that can help increase your fiber intake to help in cholesterol reduction!   

Background Information!

According to the American Heart Association, cholesterol levels[/intlink] are a major risk factor for the cardiovascular disease atherosclerosis which increases the risk for heart attacks and stroke.  The main contributing factor to this problem is LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol which is commonly called “BAD” cholesterol.  Over 100 million Americans have cholesterol levels that exceed the recommended level with 20 percent of these considered in the high category.  

Soluble fiber has been clinically shown to reduce LDL cholesterol.  The typical American diet has somewhere between 5-14 grams of dietary fiber per day.  In 2002, the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences Research Council issued Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) for fiber.  For males between the ages of 19-50 it is 38 grams of fiber per day.  For women in the same age category it is 25 grams of fiber per day.  If your age is greater than 50, then the amount of fiber decreases to 30 grams for men and 21 grams for women.  At best the typical American is only getting 50% of the needed fiber in their diet.   

What is Dietary Fiber?

Dietary fiber is found only in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, nuts, and legumes (dried beans, lentils and peas).  Although there are several forms of fiber, they are usually classified into two groups: 

  • Soluble fiber can dissolve in water to form a gel-like substance in the digestive tract.  This soluble fiber is beneficial in lowering the “BAD” cholesterol.  Clinical studies have shown that diets containing 10 to 25 grams of soluble fiber per day can lower LDL cholesterol by 18%.  Sources of good soluble fiber include oats, peas, beans, apples, and citrus fruits.  Typically one serving of any of these foods will provide about one to three grams of soluble fiber.
  • Insoluble fiber cannot dissolve in water so it passes through the digestive tract relatively unchanged.  This insoluble fiber helps to make your stools softer and bulkier and speeds elimination.  Sources of insoluble fiber would include whole-grain foods, wheat bran, most vegetables and fruit with skin.  

Typically, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables contain just as much fiber as raw ones.  However, some types of refining processes may reduce the fiber content.  Current food labeling requires the amount of dietary fiber to be listed.  It is listed just below the “Total Carbohydrate” portion of the Nutrition Facts section of the product label.  For a manufacturer to make fiber claims it must meet the following guidelines: 

  • High Fiber:  5 grams or more per serving
  • Good Source of Fiber:  2.5 – 4.9 grams per serving
  • More or Added Fiber:  At least 2.5 grams more per serving than the reference food  

How Fiber Decreases Cholesterol Naturally!

One of the ways the body eliminates cholesterol is through the excretion of bile acids.  Water-soluble fiber such as pectin and fiber found in rolled oats helps to bind these bile acids so that they are not reabsorbed in the intestines.  This forces the liver to make new bile salts.  To do so the liver increases its production of LDL receptors.  These receptors then pull LDL cholesterol out of the bloodstream.  The more bile salts the liver has to make the greater the amount of LDL cholesterol pulled from the blood.  By increasing your fiber intake you increase the amount of fiber available to bind these bile acids to speed this natural cholesterol reduction method.  

Soluble fiber also seems to have a secondary method for cholesterol reduction.  Although this method is not completely understood it seems that the fermentation of soluble fiber in the large intestines produces several short-chain fatty acids.  One of these fatty acids will travel to your liver to tell it to produce less cholesterol.  

3 Simple Steps to Increasing Your Fiber Intake!

When most people hear the concept of increasing their fiber intake they immediately think about eating multigrain breads and a lot of lettuce.  This is not what their culinary taste buds are going to get excited about.  Plus, it’s not the most effective way to increase your fiber intake.  

The following 3 steps are realistic so that everyone can achieve the goal of increased fiber intake and be able to do it long term.  These steps will help improve your overall health and have the potential to be an effective strategy for cholesterol reduction. 

Step 1- Examine Your Diet.  You like bread, cereal, pasta, rice, and maybe a vegetable.  By making some simple changes you could drastically increase your fiber intake while still enjoying your same meals. 

  • Bread:  1 slice of white bread has .6 grams of fiber where as 1 slice of whole-wheat bread has 1.9 grams of fiber.  Figuring two slices of bread for your sandwich, you just increased your fiber intake from 1.2 grams to 3.8 grams.  For a creative change to the normal sandwich try Flatout Wraps.  Their Harvest Wheat has 5 grams of fiber per wrap and some of their wraps can go as high as 9 grams of fiber.  Go to for recipes and store locations.
  • Cereal:  Maybe you’re a Wheaties type of person which has 2 grams of fiber per 1 cup serving.  By switching to 100% All Bran you just increased you fiber intake to 17.6 grams of fiber.  Too much fiber and not enough taste than try Raisin Bran at 5 grams per 1 cup serving. 
  • Pasta:  1 cup of uncooked pasta typically has 2 grams of fiber.  Switching to 1 cup of Barilla PLUS pasta and your fiber intake increased to 7 grams of fiber.  Add a ½ cup of tomato sauce on top and you added another 3 grams of fiber.  What would have been a “5 grams of fiber” meal has now become “10 grams of fiber” with no loss in taste.  For more information about recipes and store locations go to .
  • Rice:  1 cup of cooked white rice is 2 grams of fiber.  Switching to 1 cup of cooked brown rice and you’re at 5.5 grams of fiber. 
  • Vegetable:  Some people think they need to add broccoli or cauliflower to their meal to increase their fiber and it turns them off.  Broccoli has 3.0 grams of fiber per cup, cauliflower only has 2.5 grams of fiber per cup.  Switching to 1 cup of corn gives you 4.0 grams of fiber, 1 cup of green beans is 4.2 grams of fiber, and 1 cup of peas is 7.0 grams of fiber.  Instead of having a salad which has 1 cup of iceberg lettuce at .7 grams of fiber you could skip the salad and add a vegetable that gives you 8 times the value in fiber. 

Step 2- Add Fiber.  There are a couple of simple ways to add fiber to your daily intake of food without adding loads of calories.  This helps control your weight which can also be a factor in cholesterol reduction. 

  • Breakfast:  A medium banana added to the top of your cereal is 3 grams of fiber.  A cup of strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries would range from 3.3 to 4.5 grams of fiber.   
  • Snack:  Instead of going to the vending machine for a candy bar or bag of chips why not eat a medium pear at 88 calories and 5 grams of fiber or a large apple at 90 calories and 4.5 grams of fiber.   
  • Meal:  Maybe it’s time to try some new additions to your meal like 1 cup of lentils or black beans at 15 grams of fiber, baked beans at 10.4 grams of fiber, 1 medium baked potato with the skin at 5.0 grams of fiber, or a sweet potato without the skin at 5.5 grams of fiber. 

By incorporating some of the changes and additions we’ve looked at you could see the following improvements in your overall fiber intake: 

  • A breakfast of cereal and toast could go from 1 to 3 grams of fiber to 9 to 21 grams of fiber. 
  • A mid-morning snack could go from 1 gram of fiber to 4 to 5 grams of fiber. 
  • A sandwich at lunch could go from 1 to 3 grams of fiber to 4 to 15 grams of fiber. 
  • A mid-afternoon snack could go from 1 gram of fiber to 4 to 5 grams of fiber. 
  • A dinner meal could go from 5 to 7 grams of fiber to 9 to 15 grams of fiber.  

Just by making some simple changes in your food selection you could go from 9-15 grams of fiber to 30-61 grams of fiber.  Just think of the impact this would have on your overall health while you are reducing your LDL cholesterol.   

Step 3 – Take a Supplement.  There is some controversy in the use of fiber supplements so I add this step with caution.  If you are not willing to make the simple changes I have outlined in Steps 1 & 2, then talk with a qualified physician who can give you some guidance in this area.  Typically, one tablespoon of an over-the-counter fiber supplement has 15 grams of fiber.  Most people take their supplement at night after their evening meal.  

Supplements are not meant to be used as a laxative which is where most of the controversy occurs.  They are only meant to be used as a supplement for those who are not getting the proper amount of fiber from their diet.

Two Important Notes!

Proper water intake is fundamental to this whole process of fiber intake.  On the one hand, fiber can be extremely useful in preventing constipation.  But, fiber taken in the absence of adequate water intake can also be binding to cause severe constipation.  Proper water intake is the number one key to improving your overall health and wellness.

Due to its complexity, laboratory technicians have not yet been able to ascertain the exact fiber content of many foods.  Because of this, you may find discrepancies from one fiber source to another.  Add to the fact that there are varying sizes of fruits and vegetable, as well as growing conditions, and you can begin to understand why there might be some variations in the number of grams of fiber listed for different food items. 

If you are not use to eating high fiber foods then make your changes gradually to allow your body to adjust.  Anyone with a chronic disease should always consult their physician first before they alter their diet. 

As you can see, increasing your fiber intake can have a positive effect on cholesterol reduction.  With guidance, and using some simple steps to incorporate more fiber into your diet, you can get Randy from American Idol to say, “It’s the Bomb, Baby!” 

Together we can work to save a million lives!

Dan Hammer

The information contained in this blog is for general information purposes only and never as a substitute for professional medical advice or medical exam.  The information contain in this blogging website has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease without the supervision of a qualified medical doctor.

Nitric Oxide and Cholesterol!

Nitric Oxide is the master signaling molecule of the cardiovascular system and plays a critical role in blood pressure and other cardiovascular functions.  Cholesterol is the “glue” that holds your body together.  Sometimes this “glue” and more specifically LDL or low-density lipoproteins can accumulate on the arteriole walls causing damage to the cells[/intlink] which leads to the cardiovascular disease called atherosclerosis.  (For a clear understanding of cholesterol please see my page Good and Bad – What’s it All Mean?[/intlink])


While there are several natural and pharmaceutical treatments available to help reduce cholesterol levels, the most popular method today is the use of statin drugs.  In my post and Statin Drugs – Happily Married or Headed for Divorce?[/intlink], I examine the good and bad effects of statin drugs on your body.  While statin drugs can positively affect cholesterol levels to reduce your risk for atherosclerosis they can also increase your risk for other wellness issues like muscle pain, muscle weakness, loss of memory and cognitive function, and a potential link to increased congestive heart failure.  It is this increased risk for several very significant health concerns that have some doctors moving away from statin drugs. 


This leads to two questions: 


Is There a Better Way?

Can Nitric Oxide be Part of the Solution? 


The answer is “YES” to both questions.  Like[/intlink] there really are two issues regarding cholesterol.  The first is the overproduction of cholesterol by the liver and the second is the oxidative damage done by LDL cholesterol on the endothelial cells that line all of your cardiovascular system. 


There are many ways to naturally improve your cholesterol numbers which means decreasing LDL or “BAD” cholesterol while increasing your HDL or “GOOD” cholesterol.  On my page[/intlink] I provide you with 9 methods and I will be offering additional posts on effective natural treatments.  All of these methods usually require a lifestyle change such as exercise to improve HDL cholesterol or increasing the amount of soluble fiber in your diet to lower LDL cholesterol. 


Many people don’t want to make the necessary lifestyle changes so they opt out for a medication like Lipitor to control their cholesterol.  Convenience over risks!  While Nitric Oxide doesn’t seem to interfere with the liver’s ability to produce cholesterol, it does help to protect the endothelial cells from the potential oxidative stress that LDL cholesterol can cause.  And, Nitric Oxide (NO) helps statin drugs work more effectively.


According to Laureate in Medicine Dr. Louis Ignarro[/intlink] in his book NO More Heart Disease:


“With tens of millions of patients taking LDL cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, you might wonder why NO therapy is necessary for lowering cholesterol.  The fact is, NO therapy is a natural way of either reducing your need for statins or eliminating the need altogether – without any additional side effects. . . The most important message for you to take away from the discussion at this stage is that if you are on statins, you should also undertake NO therapy to amplify your benefits.  If you are not on statins, NO therapy may be able to keep you off them.  Either way, the benefits of NO therapy in the fight against high cholesterol are too great to ignore.  So do not hesitate – start NO therapy immediately.”


Bottom Line!


An effective and proven L-arginine / L-citrulline protocol will help repair your endothelial cells so that they can properly produce Nitric Oxide.  This can have a positive effect on improving your cholesterol numbers and may help reduce your need for statin drugs.  As with any change in your treatment program you should work with your health care professional so that adjustments can be properly made


Together we can work to save a million lives!


Dan Hammer


The information contained in this blog is for general information purposes only and never as a substitute for professional medical advice or medical exam.  The information contain in this blogging website has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease without the supervision of a qualified medical doctor.

Cholesterol and Statin Drugs

Blood SampleHappily Married or Headed for Divorce?

Over the last decade cholesterol has become the enemy of the cardiovascular system.  To combat this enemy more and more doctors are prescribing statin drugs like Lipitor (atorvastatin), Zocor (simvastatin), Mevacor (lovastatin) and Pravachol (pravastatin) as the answer to good cardiovascular health. 

But is cholesterol the real enemy?  And, if it is do the side effects of statin drugs outweigh the benefits?  Or, could there be a better way to protect the endothelial cells of your cardiovascular system from oxidative stress?

Cholesterol – Friend or Foe!

I used an exclamation mark instead of a question mark because it can be both.  Cholesterol is absolutely necessary for the proper function of your body.  Every cell membrane in your body needs cholesterol to help it function properly.  One of the many roles of your cell membrane is to keep the distinct biochemistry of the inside of your cell separate from that outside your cell.  When your cholesterol levels are not adequate, the cell membrane becomes porous.  This triggers an emergency response were the body releases corticoid hormones.  These hormones will pull cholesterol from one part of the body to the site in need to help repair the cell membrane.

Your brain could not function properly without cholesterol since half the dry weight of the cerebral cortex is made up of cholesterol.  Additionally, it is vital to the neurological functions of the brain such as memory and the ability of the brain to properly use hormones like serotonin.  Serotonin is your body’s “feel-good chemical” and when cholesterol levels are too low then the serotonin receptors cannot work properly. 

Cholesterol also plays a significant role in the following areas:

  • It is the precursor to vitamin D which is absolutely necessary for many of your body’s biochemical processes including mineral absorption.
  • It is necessary for the formation of bile salts which are required for the proper digestion of fats.
  • It is a powerful antioxidant to help protect you against cancer and aging.
  • It is the precursor to all the hormones produced in the adrenal cortex.  This alone has huge implications to your overall wellness since a disruption in the production of adrenal hormones can lead to:
    • Blood sugar problems
    • Edema
    • Mineral deficiencies
    • Chronic inflammation
    • Difficulty in healing
    • Allergies
    • Asthma
    • Reduced libido
    • Infertility and other reproductive problems.

As you can see cholesterol is absolutely necessary for your total wellness.

So, what’s the danger from cholesterol? 

Cholesterol is a natural product of the liver but sometimes the liver produces too much cholesterol.  When this happens it can affect the endothelial cells of your cardiovascular system.  It can damage the intercellular junctions between the endothelial cells allowing deposits to build up.  This causes the smooth and flexible lining of your blood vessels to become rough and hard leading to the disease commonly called arteriosclerosis or atherosclerosis.  As this process continues over time, the deposits or plaques become larger which narrows the interior of the blood vessel making it harder for blood to pass through.  This increases resistance to blood flow which can cause your blood pressure to increase.   

The narrowing of your blood vessels also causes blood turbulence that can lead to the formation of blood clots.  These blood clots, if large enough or if they pass through too narrow of an opening, can eventually lodge themselves in a blood vessel causing a blockage.  When this happens in the heart we call it a heart attack.  When it happens in the brain it is called a stroke.

The Effects of Statin Drugs!

When your doctor takes a blood sample to check your cholesterol levels he or she is looking at three entities:  total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol.  It is the LDL or low-density lipoprotein that is considered the “BAD” cholesterol because it can damage the endothelial cells resulting in plaque buildup.  The HDL or high-density lipoprotein is considered the “GOOD” cholesterol because it seems to have a positive effect in protecting the endothelial cells from LDL damage.

Statin drugs lower cholesterol by blocking a key enzyme that the liver uses for its production.  The enzyme is HMG-CoA (3-hydroxy-3-methyglutaryl COA) reductase.  This inhibits the liver’s ability to produce LDL or low-density lipoprotein.  This frees up the number of LDL receptor sites on the surface of liver cells allowing the liver to remove more cholesterol from the bloodstream.  Thus, statin drugs work to inhibit the production of LDL and indirectly assist the liver cells in removing cholesterol from the blood.

Studies have shown statin drugs to have the following benefits: 

  • Lower LDL levels from 18 to 55%.
  • Raise HDL levels 5 to 15%.  (According to the Mayo Clinic for every 1 milligram per deciliter rise in HDL cholesterol you reduce your risk for heart attack by 3 percent.)
  • Help the body reabsorb cholesterol that has accumulated on the artery walls.
  • Reduce oxidative stress.
  • Reduce inflammation.
  • Stabilize plaque formations.
  • Help with endothelial function.

This looks pretty encouraging.  By using a drug that can lower the “BAD” cholesterol 18 to 55% while increasing the “GOOD” cholesterol 5 to 15% you can reduce the risk for heart attack, reduce oxidative stress, reduce inflammation, and aid endothelial function.  Who wouldn’t want this?

Well, let’s look at the side effects of statin drugs. 

Remember the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase that is inhibited by the statin drugs.  This enzyme is also critical in the formation of two other life enhancing compounds:  ubiquinone and dilochol.  Ubiquinone is better known as Co-Enzyme Q 10 or CoQ10.  It plays a critical role in helping the mitochondria of your cells produce ATP which is necessary for energy production.  Your heart requires high levels of CoQ10 to function properly.  Plus, it’s involved in respiration, helps to maintain membrane integrity critical to nerve conduction, and vital to elastin and collagen formation.  The side effects of CoQ10 deficiency include muscle wasting which leads to muscle weakness and severe back pain, heart failure, neuropathy, and tendon and ligament inflammation.

Dolichols play a huge role in helping to make sure that the proteins manufactured by the cell’s DNA end up at their proper targets.  This helps to ensure that the cells respond correctly to their genetic programming.  When interfered with they can allow for some very unpredictable consequences at the cellular level. 

Even though the FDA has deemed statin drugs to be safe, there is no drug that is totally without side effects.  For statin drugs, especially now that people have been taking them longer than required in clinical testing, the side effects are more evident.  They typically fall into two categories. 

  1. Muscle Pain associated with Rhabdomyolysis.  Muscle pain in the shoulders, jaw, legs and back are common.  This pain is a symptom of the breakdown of muscle tissue caused by statin drugs.  When muscle breaks down, the body must eliminate the excess waste.  This can overload the kidneys leading to a more serious problem.  Rhabdomyolysis is the medical term for this muscular breakdown and the subsequent release of the contents of muscle fiber into the bloodstream.  When this occurs the person’s urine is usually dark, red, or cola colored.  If severe enough it can lead to acute kidney failure and death.
  2. Muscle Weakness associated with Neuropathy.  Neuropathy is a malfunction of the peripheral nervous system which can affect muscle tone and function.  There are many types of neuropathy with one caused by statin drugs.  Muscle weakness is frequently a symptom of this form of neuropathy.  Other symptoms could include:  numbness, tingling, burning sensations, and extreme sensitivity to touch.  If left untreated, neuropathy can lead to muscle deterioration and possibly paralysis.  This can directly effect swallowing and breathing. 

Additionally, memory loss and cognitive function can also be a side effect of statin drugs.  This would make sense since cholesterol is critical to proper brain function.

Finally, congestive heart failure has more than doubled from 1989 to 1997 (with statin drugs introduced into the market place in 1987.)  During this time the incidence of heart attack has slightly declined.  The current reasoning for this is the interference in the production of CoQ10 which is critical to proper heart function.

The drug industry downplays these negative side effects.  While it is difficult to get an exact estimate of the true problem since there are competing interests, researchers estimate that 1 – 5% of statin users will experience muscle pain and 10% will experience muscle weakness.  It is estimated that 16 million Americans take Lipitor, the most popular of the statin drugs.  If the above estimates are correct, then 160,000 to 800,000 thousand American are experiencing some level of muscle pain and 1.6 million are experiencing muscle weakness. 

Is There a Better Way!

Yes, there is but this blog post has already become to long.  I’ll address this issue in my blog entitled “Nitric Oxide and Cholesterol!”  But let me say this before I conclude.  Like diabetes there are two issues that need to be addressed.  One is the over production of cholesterol and the other is the damage it does to the endothelial cells.  We’ll examine this in my next post.

If you would like additional information on the effects of statin drugs then I would highly recommend the following two sources:

Dangers of Statin Drugs:  What You Haven’t Been Told About Popular Cholesterol-Lowering Medicines by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, PhD

Statin Answers – a website designed to educate and answers your questions about statin drugs.

Together we can work to save a million lives!

Dan Hammer

The information contained in this blog is for general information purposes only and never as a substitute for professional medical advice or medical exam.  The information contain in this blogging website has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease without the supervision of a qualified medical doctor.