It would appear to be a straight-forward concept: cholesterol medications lower high cholesterol. Having the focus on that alone, however, is like taking a still photo of a full-length motion picture. Up until now, statins have been portrayed as the solution to the cardiovascular disease epidemic that is sweeping the world. This is simply not the case. What is true, is that statins, like most other prescription medications, have a series of unwanted (and little known) side effects.
The human body manufactures its own cholesterol for a reason.
It is reported that around 50% of men and women in Australia over 25 have high cholesterol. Of this number, 2.6 million are currently taking statin medication. Statins work by attacking cholesterol synthesis in the liver, lowering the production of “bad” cholesterol (LDL). Here’s a not-so-novel breakthrough – our body makes cholesterol for a reason. Many people only begin understanding this once they’ve experienced new symptoms: memory lapses, muscle pain, lethargy and decreased zest for life. The brain is comprised of 70 per cent fat, and it requires cholesterol to release neurotransmitters that help maintain focus, process information and aid memory recall.
Statins disrupt biological processes…
Coenzyme Q10 is an antioxidant that helps our cells produce energy. Since it uses the same metabolic pathway as cholesterol, statins disrupt its production. This can lead to fatigue, weakness, stiffness and shortness of breath. Muscles low on this energy source experience pain and can even rupture.
Vitamin D is made from cholesterol in the skin, on exposure to UV rays. Vitamin D deficiency impacts the absorption of calcium, bone integrity, gut and heart health and may increase the risk of depression and dementia. Statin medications also reduce cholesterol in the skin, resulting in a lower production of vitamin D, an essential molecule that is already deficient in many people, even in Australia.
Hormones such as testosterone, DHEA, oestrogen and progesterone are produced from cholesterol too. Low levels of cholesterol reduce the body’s ability to produce these hormones, resulting in various symptoms including low energy, fatigue and lethargy, low sex drive and menstrual dysfunction.
The moral of the story is that while statins have their uses, not every person that has “high” cholesterol should be taking them, and high cholesterol levels are not necessarily an indicator of increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Studies have proven that higher cholesterol levels may, in fact, be protective against disease and support optimal functioning of the immune system.
Source: Maltman, T. Care needed when controlling cholesterol. Winnipeg Free Press. 26/01/2014