Statins And Diabetes: Why Didn’t They Tell Me?

heart-measureCan you tell when you’ve eaten too much ice cream? Does the eructation shake your table lamps after too many sodas? Sometimes we learn what enough is by having too much. Too bad it isn’t the same with drugs. A hundred-pound lady doesn’t need as many aspirins to get rid of a headache as a two-hundred-pound guy. And for those who take a statin because the doctor said so, why does everybody start with the same doses? With Zocor, everybody starts with 40 mg. Doesn’t anybody think that maybe 5 mg could do the trick? Hey, if one quart of white semi-gloss will cover the bathroom walls adequately, why buy a gallon unless you have a use for it elsewhere? You gonna paint those walls until the gallon is empty?

Over the last few years, the cholesterol model of cardiovascular disease is steadily being replaced by the inflammation model of CVD, putting statin drugs on the back burner because cholesterol, it is realized, has never caused a heart attack. In fact, half the scary cardiac events happen to people who have what are deemed ideal cholesterol numbers (Sachdeva, 2009). Yes, it is true that statins interfere with cholesterol manufacture by the body, not only in the liver, but also in the brain, where cholesterol is vital to the machinery of thought and function. Low cholesterol can lead to serious health issues when that machinery is interrupted.  Low cholesterol levels are associated with high total mortality, even in patients with coronary heart disease (Behar, 1997) (Krumholz, 1994).

Differences between young and old, and between male and female, are recognized in the cholesterol arena, too. The impact of total cholesterol as a risk factor for heart disease decreases with age (Waverling-Rijnsburger, 1997) and for women, whose moderately elevated cholesterol may actually be beneficial (Petursson, 2012). The age cutoff for both genders is fifty (Anderson, 1987). If this information regarding age was known ten years ago, why are TV ads so adamant about getting cholesterol values below a hundred?

The personal experiences of at least one NASA astronaut have attested to the nasty effects of statins, including transient global amnesia, impaired cognition, personality changes, myopathy, neuropathy and neuromuscular degeneration. The root of all these maladies is the inhibition of Co-enzyme Q 10, a physiologically necessary substance that is blocked by Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor and the rest of the gang. Without CoQ10, mitochondria don’t work their magic at cell metabolism, where they get to burn food for energy, oxidize fatty acids, and use the electrons supplied by CoQ10 for a host of other essential activities. The pathway that makes cholesterol also makes CoQ10 in the body. Stopping one stops the other. This is so well known that statin prescriptions in Canada—for Mevachor®, Pravachol® and Lipitor®— contain a warning about CoQ 10 depletion. Merck even filed two patents for a statin-CoQ 10 combination, no. 4,933,165 and no. 4,929,437, which expired in May and June of 2007 (Koon, 2013). And you thought the drug companies had your best interest at heart, eh? The cholesterol issue is a complicated one and now, to add to the quagmire of hits and misses, is the notice that statins are implicated in the risk of developing diabetes. The endearing stars in this drama are atorvastatin (Lipitor), rosuvastatin (Crestor) and simvastatin (Zocor), brought to you by Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Merck. Atorvastatin was found to be the most influential of the three at elevating blood glucose, followed by rosuvastatin and simvastatin, in a recent Canadian study carried out at the Toronto General Hospital (Carter, 2013). From this work it may be drawn that pravastatin (Pravachol) is the safest drug related to diabetes onset. Regardless of drug of choice, or rather the physician’s choice, dose intensity also seems to make a difference in diabetes risk. Intense doses, especially at 80 mg of Zocor, increase the odds of all statin-induced adverse events (Silva, 2007), extending diabetes risk to almost ten percent of the medicated population (Preiss, 2011).

For all the hoopla that accompanied statins’ debut forty years ago into the pharmaceutical world, recounting their anti-cholesterol beneficence, it’s been discovered that their real claim to fame is being anti-inflammatory. That characteristic, it’s claimed, is more important to their raison d’etre than disrupting the cholesterol (and CoQ 10) pathway (Antonopoulos, 2012) (Mora, 2006) (Weitz-Schmidt, 2002). If so, then anti-inflammatory substances that have zero side effects might be considered. In this list will be simple things with complex mechanisms, like ginger, curcumin (from turmeric), capsaicin (from hot peppers), garlic, fish oil, bromelain (from pineapples), flaxseed oil, and zinc, among others. Aside from an allergic reaction which you already would know about, the only side effects of these ingredients are possibly foul breath (that would be the anti-vampire action) and stomach upset from too much of a good thing.

The mention of CoQ10 needs at least a little thought. Natural stores of this enzyme diminish with age. The fact that it donates electrons to multiple body processes bespeaks its importance to full function. It’s comparable to using the correct gauge extension cord with an electric weed trimmer. If the cord can’t carry the voltage, the trimmer will not work to its potential. Adding CoQ 10 to the daily regimen is a prudent decision whether taking a statin or not. Why?  It helps to control blood glucose (Kolahdouz, 2013) (Mezawa, 2012).

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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
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