by Thomas D. Meade, M.D.
Many patients take statins to lower their cholesterol, prevent arterial ‘clogging', prevent fatal heart attacks and live longer. Most of these patients do not need this drug, are not benefiting from this drug, will not live one day longer on this drug, and are probably harming themselves and making their health worse on this drug. This is actually known by respected lipid scientists around the world as ‘The Great Cholesterol Myth' or the 'Statin Scam.'
Cholesterol is possibly the most important organic substance responsible for our survival as an organism, yet pharmaceutical companies have made more money from statins that reduce cholesterol than any other class of drug in history.
Health care providers have been influenced to prescribe a drug which inhibits one of the most critical biochemical pathways in our cells, one that has been perfected over millions of years to enhance our survival.
Cholesterol makes up 20% of our cell membranes and is responsible for the transport of vital substances in and out of our billions of cells every second of every day, and yet tens of millions of people willingly take a drug to inhibit this process, slow us down, accelerate aging of our cells, all because their physicians say so, often with little understanding of the mechanism of action, side effects, and long-term sometimes irreversible consequences.Cholesterol is critical to hormone production, glucose metabolism, sex drive, vitamin D metabolism, and perhaps most important, brain synapse function affecting memory, mood, attention and aggressive behavior. How many men would fill their statin prescription if they were told cholesterol is the critical building block of testosterone, the sex hormone that is responsible for your libido and sexual performance?
How many women would fill their prescription if they were told there is no credible scientific data that they will live one day longer or have an improved quality of life?
How many men or women would fill their statin prescription if fully informed of the many adverse health outcomes? Or that cholesterol strengthens cell membranes; or that cholesterol is a good antioxidant; or cholesterol's key role in memory; or that there is an increased risk of diabetes with cholesterol reduction; or peripheral neuropathy is worsened with cholesterol lowering therapy; or the neurologic effects of cholesterol reduction include depression, violent behavior, severe anger or suicide; or that cholesterol is the most common organic molecule in our brains.
How many patients with congestive heart failure on statins are told their chance of dying is increased, not decreased? How do statins zap your energy? Ever see children run around with boundless energy and see an elderly group move at a much slower pace? One of the consequences of aging is a progressive decrease in the number and function of the mitochondrion, the powerhouse in our cells.
Some of this is a natural consequence of aging, but some can be accelerated by disease or drugs. We certainly don't need any help in losing energy as we age, but few patients are told that the statin drug they are taking is doing just that.
Tens of thousands of statin users have been damaged by statins, and it is suspected that mitochondrial damage is the principle cause of most conditions involved. Co-Q 10 is a key player in mitochondrial energy production and statins inhibit the production of this critical compound.
Low cholesterol levels interfere with ATP ( adenosine triphosphate ) production - the energy or ‘gasoline' of the cell engine. Fatigue is the end result of ATP depletion, so with sufficient mitochondrial damage, fatigue becomes inevitable.
Tissue with high energy needs like muscle, heart and brain come equipped with hundreds of mitochondria because of the urgency of their metabolic demand, thus mitochondrial damage from statins allows a reasonable understanding of why muscle pain, decreased heart function in congestive heart patients and cognitive impairment have been reported at a high level in chronic statin users.
Many people recognize the value of anti-oxidants in foods such as colorful fruits and vegetables, like blueberries, oranges, tomatoes, yellow, red, orange, peppers etc. Co-Q 10 is also a valuable anti-oxidant, particularly to high-risk components of the cell, like the mitochondrion, which needs high oxygen levels to function. Any substance that inhibits the bioavailability of anti-oxidants, such as the inhibitory effect of statin drugs on Co-Q 10 may damage our DNA. Especially vulnerable, because of the immediate proximity to high oxygen levels, is our mitochondrial DNA.
Oxygen is a powerful reactant. In the environment oxygen reacts with iron to form rust. In the cell mitochondrion, oxygen is necessary for energy production. Oxygen reactivity produces free radicals. Anti-oxidants are necessary to protect the mitochondrial DNA from free radical damage.
Co-Q 10 is a wonderful lifeguard acting as a powerful anti-oxidant in the mitochondria. Statins decrease Co-Q 10, increasing the chance of mitochondrial DNA damage which could be permanent and not reversible even with Co Q-10 supplementation.
Statins decrease Co Q-10. No Co-Q 10, no ATP. No ATP, no energy. Result - fatigue, muscle pain and even rarely death. There is no way to predict how any one person will respond to this progressive mitochondrial deterioration triggered by statins, but the brain with its high metabolic requirements, seems particularly susceptible.
Patients may present with memory loss, emotional symptoms, painful neuropathy (numbness / tingling), muscle pain or weakness, or ALS-like symptoms, all to treat some moving number on a lab test which has never been proven to be particularly dangerous.
How many people think a drug on the market can do no harm? Remember thalidomide. Now instead of birth defects we have cognitive defects, chronic fatigue, and increasing numbers of statin patients with neuro-degenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's disease, and ALS. All these are casually dismissed in doctor's offices as old age and coincidence.
All drugs have side effects; there is no free lunch, but the risk has to be worth the reward. Insulin has risks, but the reward of living a relatively normal life for a diabetic is well worth it. Chemotherapy has risks, but the toxic effects are worth it if it can cure Hodgkin's Disease and many other forms of cancer.
Statins affect mitochondrial DNA by inhibiting Co-Q 10 production. The end result can be premature aging along with its often-associated weakness, fatigue, incoordination and faulty memory as well as increased numbers of neurodegenerative diseases. You decide, is the risk of statins worth the reward? To me, in most cases the answer is more than obvious.
Thomas D. Meade, M.D.
Dr. Tom Meade serves as The Senior Partner of OAA Orthopaedic Specialists.
He co-developed the 300,000 sq. ft. Integrated Health Campus, a landmark national showcase medical facility.
He also hosts two educational cable TV programs, "Real Life in the OR" and "Inside Medicine." ( www.ssptv.com)