“No evidence’ having high levels of bad cholesterol causes heart disease, claim 17 physicians as they call on doctors to ‘abandon’ statins”
Shouts the headlines in several newspapers in the United Kingdom today. As a Doctor who has said for many years that the benefits of Statin Cholesterol lowering medications are not as great as claimed and the risks much greater than admitted by the pharmaceutical industry, I was quite heartened see so many other doctors publically agreeing with me in This Article Published in the Daily Mail and other Newspapers today:
No one denies that Statin medications can dramatically lower LDL Cholesterol BUT is that how they cause their very small decrease in heart attack risk??? I have been looking for any good scientific evidence that it is the ability of statins to lower LDL Cholesterol that is the reason for their mild protective effect without finding any convincing evidence to support the theory and certainly nothing that conclusively proves it. Could it be something else? One of the most most significant risk factors for a heart attack is total body inflammation levels as reflected by the C-Reactive Protein (CRP) levels in the blood. It is a much more significant risk factor than LDL Cholesterol levels. I wrote about that in my recent post: “I Went Zero Carb and My Total and LDL Cholesterol Went Really High! Is That Dangerous? No!”. To the right is a chart from this study of healthy men showing that the risk of heart disease quadruples in men in the highest quintile of CRP levels.
Researching this post I found this study on statins and C-Reactive Protein. Here’s a quote: “Extensive clinical trial data have shown that the degree of LDL-C reduction obtained depends on the particular statin used and that intensive LDL-C lowering reduces the incidence of cardiovascular events compared with more moderate LDL-C lowering. More recent data suggest that effects independent of LDL-C lowering may also play a part in the reduction in cardiovascular events. C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation, is a potential predictor of CVD risk, and statins reduce CRP levels by up to 60%. CRP reduction is independent of LDL-C lowering, and variation between statins in CRP reduction may play some role in CVD event reduction rates. At present, however, there are few outcome data relating to the cardiovascular benefits of reducing CRP.” Here’s a quote from the actual study mentioned in the Daily Mail article noted above that triggered me to write this post: “If LDL-C is atherogenic, people with high LDL-C should have more atherosclerosis than those with low LDL-C. At least four studies have shown a lack of an association between LDL-C and degree of atherosclerosis , and in a study of 304 women, no association was found between LDL-C and coronary calcification . One exception is a study of 1779 healthy individuals without conventional risk factors for CVD . Here the authors found that LDL-C was significantly higher among those with subclinical atherosclerosis (125.7 vs.117.4 mg/dl). However, association does not prove causation. Mental stress for instance is able to raise cholesterol by 10-50% in the course of half an hour [18,19], and mental stress may cause atherosclerosis by mechanisms other than an increase in LDL-C; for instance, via hypertension and increased platelet aggregation.”
I wrote about many rarely disclosed adverse consequences of statin medications in my post: “Statin Risks and Cholesterol benefits your Doctor May Have Failed to Mention”. However I discovered a new ones researching this post. Here’s a quote from an interesting study out of Japan how statins damage our mitochondria, the engines in almost all the cells of our body that produce our energy: “In contrast to the current belief that cholesterol reduction with statins decreases atherosclerosis, we present a perspective that statins may be causative in coronary artery calcification and can function as mitochondrial toxins that impair muscle function in the heart and blood vessels through the depletion of coenzyme Q10 and ‘heme A’, and thereby ATP generation. Statins inhibit the synthesis of vitamin K2, the cofactor for matrix Gla-protein activation, which in turn protects arteries from calcification. Statins inhibit the biosynthesis of selenium containing proteins, one of which is glutathione peroxidase serving to suppress peroxidative stress. An impairment of selenoprotein biosynthesis may be a factor in congestive heart failure, reminiscent of the dilated cardiomyopathies seen with selenium deficiency. Thus, the epidemic of heart failure and atherosclerosis that plagues the modern world may paradoxically be aggravated by the pervasive use of statin drugs. We propose that current statin treatment guidelines be critically reevaluated.”
Another article I found studied 22 high level athletes who were prescribed statins for familial hypercholesterolemia. 16 of the 22 athletes had to stop the statins due to adverse side effects, mostly with their muscles. Here’s the conclusion from the study: These findings indicate that in top sports performers only about 20% tolerate statin treatment without side-effects. Clinical decision making as to lipid lowering therapy thus becomes a critical issue in this small subgroup of patients.
There is good news though and it’s for us low carb, high fat diet folks. Low carb diets like Zero Carb decrease CRP levels often dramatically. There is a great randomized, controlled trial currently going at the Indiana University School of Medicine called the Virta Trial. It is currently in the third of five years. In the trial 2 groups containing about 250 diabetics in each group were randomized to receive either Standard American Diabetes Association recommended care (labeled the “Usual Care” [UC] group). The other group labeled the “Continuous Care Intervention” (CCI) group received a very slightly modified form of the Atkins’s diet along with an “app” on their phones, tablets and computers that allowed them talk to a nutritionist and if necessary a doctor 24/7 and gave them shopping, meal planning, cooking and other tips. The first year statistics were very impressive. Of special interest was that the CRP dropped significantly compared to the UC group which went up. The low carb patients also saw their triglyceride to HDL ratio drop while the UC group saw their’s go up. The average weight loss in the Atkin’s group was 12% while the poor UC folks gained weight. Here’s a quote from the study: ” After adjusting for baseline differences when comparing CCI and UC groups, significant improvements for the CCI group included small LDL-P, ApoA1, triglyceride/HDL-C ratio, HDL-C, hsCRP, and LP-IR score in addition to other biomarkers that were previously reported. The CCI group showed a greater rise in LDL-C.” Of course the LDL theory believer will point the increased LDL as worse than all the benefits seen. The science as I know it clearly does not support that position. The Virta Treatment plan is now available throughout the US. If you are interested you can find out more on their website.