Tag Archives: LDL

Cholesterol: Rethinking Statins

As of the spring of 2014 one in four Americans over 45 were taking a cholesterol lowering drug known as a statin.  Over 43 million Americans between the ages of 40-75, along with an increasing number of younger customers are now including a Lipitor or Crestor as part of their daily regimen.

As the lab values that serve as the criteria for prescribing a statin continue to change, the umbrella for those deemed in need of statin therapy continues to widen.  Leaning on the outdated and now uneducated vilification of fats and cholesterol, the multibillion dollar statin industry continues to thrive.  Sad thing is, cardiovascular disease and overall health have not improved despite the low fat, statin fueled culture we know find ourselves in.

So is this widening spread use of statins necessary?  Is it safe?  Here are some facts about statins and cholesterol that should at the very least provoke some individual concern and subsequent investigation.

In 2012 the FDA issued a statement declaring statin drugs can cause cognitive side effects such as memory lapses and confusion.

An AMA (American Medical Association) study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine demonstrated a 48% increased risk of diabetes (a powerful risk factor for type III diabetes aka Alzheimer’s) among women taken statins.

It is well known that statins paralyze cells’ ability to make coenzyme Q10, a vitamin like substance found throughout the body, where it serves as an antioxidant and energy producer.  Depletion of CoQ10 leads to fatigue, shortness of breath, mobility & balance problems, muscular pain & weakness. CoQ10 deficiency has also been linked to heart failure, hypertension & Parkinson’s.  CoQ10 has actually been proposed as a treatment for Alzheimer’s.  At the absolute very least, individuals currently undergoing statin therapy should consult with their physician about adding CoQ10 to their regimen.

How about Vitamin D deficiency? Vitamin D is derived from cholesterol in the skin. When statins lower cholesterol, the ability to generate Vitamin D is hampered leading to (amongst other things)  a heightened risk for diabetes, depression, cardiovascular disease and ultimately dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Consider the fact that our sex hormones are also derived from cholesterol.  Lowering cholesterol through use of statins and diet can lead to lower testosterone levels and subsequent decreased libido and ED (erectile dysfunction) which are common complaints amongst statin users.

LOWER levels of cholesterol have been linked to depression, dementia and even earlier death.

This type of information and suffering will hopefully continue to provoke reconsideration and remodeling of the current paradigm.  As we learn more through research and prior failures, the appropriate response is to act on this newfound knowledge and improve.  Unfortunately pride and profits appear to be standing in the way, so it is on us as individuals to educate and investigate when it comes to our health.

When it comes to evaluating cholesterol levels, they are usually included in a lipid panel. This entire process should be reevaluated as well, but there are ways to alter and more accurately measure your triglyceride and small LDL.  Before resorting to a statin, why not attempt to uncover the reason for the unfavorable levels, and attempt to remedy it?

How about starting with rethinking the dietary approach?

No not the seemingly logical, oversimplified and outdated, disproven theory that dietary fats and cholesterol are the main culprits behind “bad” cholesterol and cardiovascular disease.

You must once again look to carbohydrates and the subsequent release of insulin, which triggers fatty acid synthesis in the liver.  This starts the chain that eventually leads to the rise of triglycerides and “bad” cholesterol.  It is no coincidence that diabetes (a disease which features erratic blood sugar and insulin levels) is associated with the lipid triad of low HDL or “good” cholesterol, and high triglycerides and small LDL or “bad” cholesterol.

(Calling HDL and LDL cholesterol is actually incorrect as the “L” actually stands for Lipoprotein, and the “HD” and “LD” stand for High or Low Density.  These are carrier proteins that transport cholesterol throughout the body.)

The majority of type II diabetes can be reversed by reducing carb consumption, and the same holds true for naturally improving your lipid panel.

Another area to look at is thyroid function.

Patients with hypothyroid symptoms often display a lipid panel that includes high triglycerides and high LDL due to the body making fat much quicker than it can burn it.  The slower metabolism seen with hypothyroidism leads to:

…a sluggish liver and gall bladder making fat less likely to be metabolized and cleared from the body.

…it causes cells to be less receptive to LDL circulating which sets the stage for the LDL to accumulate and be oxidized.  This is actually when LDL becomes harmful, not merely its presence alone as it is actually necessary to deliver vital cholesterol to our body’s tissues.

…leaves an individual less able to burn fat as fuel as a healthy person would.  This creates a reliance on glucose (carbs/sugar) for fuel and the subsequent insulin release, fat storage and higher triglycerides and small LDL.

Diet and hampered thyroid function are just two possible reasons for an unfavorable lipid profile, and in many cases can be improved with lifestyle changes and the application of functional medicine.  Depending on the individual, cleaning up the menu, fortifying the digestive system, balancing the immune system, supporting the adrenal and thyroid glands and detoxification pathways can all be used to improve underlying function, which in turn creates a healthier human who can hopefully steer clear of statins and the accompanying baggage.

As always, consult with your healthcare provider before making any changes.  If you are interested in a unique, knowledgable approach based on the most current research, experience and understanding of the underlying function of the body and would like to learn more, call us today.

The Fascinating Relationship of Cholesterol and Statin Drugs

Cholesterol is a term that gets thrown around all the time, and almost always in a negative light.  It is this bad reputation of cholesterol that has led to the rise of popular cholesterol lowering statin drugs such as Lipitor and Crestor.  But what is cholesterol?  Is it a bad thing?  Are statin drugs necessary?  How do they work?

Let’s start with cholesterol.  It is a lipid (aka fat) produced in the liver that is vital to life and serves as the precursor for various hormones (cortisol, testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, etc.) and vitamin D.  It is also what makes up the outer membrane of virtually every cell in our bodies.  Anytime a cell is damaged by way of direct trauma or inflammation, more cholesterol is required to rebuild and repair.

The correct level of cholesterol varies from person to person.  A total cholesterol level of over 240 may be perfectly healthy for some, but an indicator of a potential risk factor for others.  As a matter of fact the acceptable total level of CHL used to be well over 250, but has been lowered and lowered. Why?  Well, some speculate that by continuously lowering the normative value, you extend that umbrella wider and wider for statin drug customers.

Statin drugs came about after a study by Ancel Keys (The Seven Countries Study) directly attributed cardiovascular disease to high cholesterol.  The powers that be (including the American Heart Association) took this finding and ran with it as the country became obsessed with lowering CHL.  Only problem is the study had gaping holes in it and has since been disproven by numerous scientists and nutritionists around the globe.

The correct thing to do here would be to recant, admit the mistake, and take proactive steps going forward.  For some reason this doesn’t happen as CHL continues to be bashed and statins continue to rake in the dollars.

The story gets worse when we actually break down how statins do their work.  Trust me on this one, this is actually quite fascinating.

First we have a rise of inflammation in the body due to too many grains, dairy, soy, corn, sugar…pick your poison.  This inflammation causes internal damage and as we discussed, CHL is required to assist in the repairing.

The liver then sends out LDL (low density lipoproteins aka “bad” cholesterol).  So as we can see, it is the consumption of too many carbs or inflammatory foods (not fats) that can indirectly raise “bad” CHL.   I say indirectly because in actuality only a small percentage of our total CHL is derived directly from CHL containing foods, such as eggs.  But back to the story.

So CHL is sent out from the liver as LDL to assist in the rebuild due to inflammation.   However, when this inflammation persists, damage is done to the receptors on the cells that receive the LDL.  So now the cells that are in need of CHL, aren’t getting it and request for the liver to send more.  The liver, being the people pleaser it is, obliges and sends out more CHL in the form of LDL.

At this point, due to inflammation, we have internal destruction going on.  At the same time, bad CHL levels (LDLs) are also up due to the inflammation, but not the direct cause of the destruction correlated with things like cardiovascular disease.

Hang in there, here comes the good stuff.

Due to the perception that high CHL is the reason for CVD, a drug was created to combat it.  Statin drugs work by actually damaging the part of the liver that makes CHL.  So we see a drop in total CHL.  It gets even more diabolical in that the liver, now requiring materials to rebuild, needs additional CHL.  The CHL that persisted in the periphery as “bad” CHL now is transported back to the liver as HDL or “good” cholesterol.  The numbers have been manipulated from dangerous to healthy, all while destroying the liver and allowing the causative systemic inflammation to persist.

Cherry on top here is that one of the key markers of inflammation is something called C-reactive protein (CRP). Where do you think this is made? You guessed it, the liver.  Liver destruction leads to less CRP, and we lose one of our methods to accurately detect systemic inflammation.

I guess this is why the ads for statin drugs flat out state that they have not been shown to prevent heart attacks, heart disease, or strokes.  Oh, they lower CHL in the manners we discussed, but not the risk they were originally intended to decrease.  Yet they are still heavily utilized.  I don’t know about you, but I found this simultaneously fascinating, frustrating and ingenious all in one.

This article isn’t intended to instruct anyone to stop taking any medications.  Always consult with your trusted doctor before stopping or starting any aspect of treatment, especially medications.  However, it is designed to provoke thought and questions.  And as we can see, when it comes to cholesterol and statins, there certainly are a lot to be answered.