What to do when “Statins” just don’t suit you?

The association between heart disease and cholesterol has enjoyed a long and sometimes rather volatile relationship. Without doubt, those with certain genetic defects causing their cholesterols to rocket into double figures have a predisposition to clogged arteries and heart disease well before their time but controversy rages on regarding the true impact of cholesterol on coronary artery disease; does simply reducing the cholesterol level really play such an important role when off set against the growing list of side effects experienced by users of cholesterol lowering drugs known as statins.
A number of recent studies have thrown a shroud or confusion over the whole cholesterol issue. In a large study involving over 1800 people with existing arterial disease just lowering their bad cholesterol (LDL) for 4 years made no difference to the progression of the disease. However, what did become apparent was that 105 unexpected cases of cancer occurred in the drug treated group compared to 70 cases in the non-drug treated group. To date, no one can confidently point a finger at the drug as a trigger for the cancer cases but it does raise suspicion that needs further investigation. The drug being tested was a combination of simvastatin and ezeimibe known as Inegy.
Other less serious but now well documented side effects from statin therapy include muscle pain and weakness (myopathy) and damage to the liver. Some experts dismiss these side effects as rare and not significant compared to their effectiveness in lowering cholesterol but if simply lowering the cholesterol is not the main issue could thousands of statin users be exposing themselves to unnecessary side effects and misery. Interestingly, Professor Beatrice Golomb of the University of California San Diego agrees. She found that muscle symptoms are far from rare with statin drugs. Professor Golomb comments that “there’s a multibillion-dollar industry ensuring that you hear all the good things about statins, but no interest group ensuring that you hear the other side.” On her research based web site, http://www.statineffects.com, Professor Golomb outlines why she is particularly concerned with the effect of statins on moods and memory describing how “it’s common to find patients on the drugs who report trouble finding the right word or forgetting what task they are supposed to be doing.” Supporting this alternative view on cholesterol is the Danish physician and cholesterol expert Dr Uffe Ravnskov who also publishes a cholesterol information web site that can be found at www.ravnskov.nu. Dr Ravnskov commented in the British Medical Journal that two of the big statin trials deliberately excluded patients who had suffered side-effects in pre-trial tests, and then claimed that the number of side-effects reported was low.
However we can’t avoid the fact that heart disease is a real problem in the UK. The British Heart Foundation state that collectively, heart and circulatory diseases cause more than a third (36%) of all deaths in the UK, accounting for over 208,000 deaths each year. With statistics like this being circulated and our obsession with cholesterol levels it comes as no surprise that the food supplement products known as Red Yeast Rice (RYR) hit the headlines. The news that a 600mg dose of RYR taken morning and evening significantly reduced blood fats (lowering total cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL) while raising the healthy cholesterol levels known as HDL was just what the growing army or statin intolerant people wanted to hear. The study (published in the June 2008 issue of the American Journal of Cardiology) involves some 5000 people over a time period of four and a half years. What was even more interesting was the fact that al those in the study has suffered a previous heart attack and were taken off all conventional drugs before starting the RYR trial. Unlike the study involving the drug combination mentioned at the start of this feature the RYR intake group demonstrated a reduction in disease reoccurrence and no associated side effects.
For those wishing to try a RYR product consider Red Yeast Rice Gold, a certified organic food supplement known to be free from impurities. It is not recommended that you combine RYR with statin drugs. It would make sense to avoid Grapefruit juice since this may increase the risk of side effects and avoid St Johns wort since this may reduce the effectiveness of RYR. Because there are no studies to the contrary, the use of RYR products during pregnancy and breast feeding is not recommended. For a good overview of RYR and its actions and interactions click here.


Leave a comment

Filed under Health News

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s