The Risks of Lowering Cholesterol with Drug Therapies

When it comes to our health, education is critical because ultimately, we are responsible for our own wellbeing.

Corporate interests control much of the education, advertising and media intended to influence healthcare, but I am thrilled to see a number of videos and books by primary care doctors, heart surgeons, and other healthcare specialists that aim to educate the general public about how our biological processes work so we can make informed choices regarding our health.  Today I want to use some of these resources to discuss cholesterol, its use in the body, and what happens when we take drugs to lower it.

The following information comes from: “The Statin Disaster” by David Brownstein, MD., and YouTube video “Do statins prevent or cause heart disease?” by Dr. Nadir Ali.

Why Cholesterol is Important

Let’s start by understanding what cholesterol does and why it is not just important but imperative for life.

  • Cholesterol is required to maintain the structural integrity of our cells, to keep toxins out, and for cells to replicate.  Without enough cholesterol, cells die.
  • Cholesterol is required to make the myelin sheath around our nerves, and the connections between our nerve cells.
  • Cholesterol has anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties.  LDLs in particular help neutralize bacterial infections including Staphylococcus infections.
  • Cholesterol is a precursor for the creation of sex hormones including DHEA, pregnenolone, progesterone, testosterone, and estrogen.
  • Cholesterol is necessary for the proper function of insulin receptors.  Insulin receptors sit in a cholesterol-rich domain, when cholesterol is reduced, the receptors don’t work well.
  • Cholesterol is used to produce bile which allows us to break down fats and absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.  Lack of vitamin D is correlated with cardiovascular disease.  Cholesterol is also involved in converting vitamin K1 to K2 which prevents vascular calcification (hardening of the arteries).
  • Within the cholesterol synthesis pathway, CoQ10 is created.  It’s an enzyme that makes adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which is involved in cell energy transfer.  It is also an antioxidant, protects cells against oxidative damage, and is important for both skeletal and heart muscle function. 

What Happens When We Lower Cholesterol with Statins?

The common guidance is that we need high HDL and very low LDL to avoid strokes, heart attacks, and death.  According to heart surgeon, Dr. Nadir Ali, there are people born with a genetic disorder called A-beta-lipoproteinemia who have high HDL and an absence of LDL.  You would think these individuals would be the picture of health, but what actually happens is they experience recurrent infections, blindness, poor muscle control with clumsy movement, difficulty articulating words, fatty liver, and they die in their 30s or 40s.  People who are genetically born with high HDL and an absence of LDL do not thrive, they die young.  

Increased Risk of Diabetes

As stated above, insulin receptors sit in a cholesterol-rich domain, when cholesterol is reduced, the receptors don’t work well.  The Women’s Health Initiative Study found that in postmenopausal women taking statins, 9.93% of them became diabetic after 3 years of use compared with 6.41% of women not taking statins. 

Muscle Pain, Muscle Breakdown, and Heart Failure

As you can see from the diagram below, cholesterol lowering drugs interrupt the pathway very high up in the chain meaning that downstream reactions suffer including steroid hormones and ubiquinone/CoQ10.

The Cholesterol Pathway

According to Dr. David Brownstein, “Over 90% of the body’s energy is produced using CoQ10 as a cofactor.  The two most common adverse effects of statins are fatigue and muscle aches and pains.  The heart is the largest muscle in the body.  It also has the largest concentration of CoQ10 in the body… [T]he most overlooked cause of congestive heart failure is statin use resulting in CoQ10 deficiency.”

Dr. Brownstein continues, “mevalonate [is] required for DNA synthesis, cell growth, and replication.  Keep in mind, inhibiting cells from replication ensures their death.  This is why statins cannot be used in pregnancy; isoprenoids are crucial for normal embryo development… Furthermore…dolichols are important molecules for DNA replication and repair.  Without adequate dolichol production, DNA errors can accumulate.”

Physical Therapists are also seeing the effects of cholesterol lowering drugs on their patient populations in terms of muscle pain and reduced muscle function.

Cognitive Problems

The highest concentration of cholesterol is in the brain.  Reports to the FDA during 2004-2014 found that statins caused thousands of cases in each category of: amnesia, dementia, disorientation depression, impaired memory, and suicidal ideation or attempts.

In Conclusion

Rather than seeing cholesterol as something bad that needs to be lowered at all costs, find credible sources who have worked with patients, understand the cholesterol pathway, know the side effects and risk factors of cholesterol lowering drugs and want to educate healthcare consumers.  Educate yourself so you can advocate for yourself or those you love and be able to make informed choices.

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