Endogenous digitalis-like hormones are produced in the adrenal glands from cholesterol precursors and increasingly are being recognized as vitally important in what I choose to call membrane metabolism.
These hormones along with elements of our ATP energy system regulate the activity of the sodium and potassium ions across cell membranes. Suffice it to say that the abrupt shifting about of sodium and potassium across a cell membrane is what gives a heart-beat and about a million other vital things in our body.
You can imagine what statin drugs do to this system by lowering our serum cholesterol to levels unnatural for our bodies. We all have our own functional level of cholesterol and rarely are any two people alike in this respect yet we all are normal for the most part. Take this level and halve it, which is what statins do in many cases, and you have a feel for what our adrenal glands are trying to do with only half the substrate to work with.
I have personal experience with altered brain function (two episodes of transient global amnesia) when my cholesterol plummeted from 280 to 150 through the magic of Lipitor. The cholesterol substrate just was not there for my brain cells to function. Similarly I have received several hundred reports of apprehensive men with erectile dysfunction (ED) and absent libido because their cholesterol levels under statins were apparently insufficient to produce testosterone.
Now you must be asking yourselves, "When is he going to drop the other shoe?" He already has mentioned this digitalis-like thing. You are right, my prelude over and I must turn my focus to cancer. Cancer researchers have long been intrigued by the unusually low incidence of cancers in people who also are taking digitalis in one form or another.
Whether on Digitoxin, Digoxin. Lanatoside-C or Acetyldigoxin the cancer incidence was not just a little low when one was on these drugs, it was very, very much lower. It appears that this supplemental digitalis treatment was preventing nor-adrenaline from helping cancer cells spread and make their own blood vessels, which they do. In so doing they were inhibiting the growth and development of cancers.
Other researchers have confirmed this and now have turned their attention to the effect of statin drugs on the metabolism of our endogenous digitalis-like substances, suspecting greater predisposition to cancers as these protective substances are reduced.
Interesting how at variance this must seem to those really looking at the medical literature. Study after study, according to the cadres of drug company supported researchers, are investigating the effectiveness of statin in cancer treatment, with positive findings.
Yes, there is little doubt that bias is entering into their interpretation of the facts but there is more to it than bias. In almost any disease process you care to mention, inflammation plays a role at some stage of the process. There is no doubt in my mind that statins will help reduce this inflammatory process and can be said to help.
Take Alzheimer's disease - many studies show the benefit of statins yet these same statins are promoting the formation of tau protein, the major ingredient of the deadly neurofibrillatory tangles that are causing neuronal destruction. So statins, I believe, are perfectly capable of benefiting the inflammation while at the same time promoting the delevelopment.
Duane Graveline MD MPH
Former USAF Flight Surgeon
Former NASA Astronaut
Retired Family Doctor