Statin Idiocy

You may have noticed the ludicrous proposal from a group of British doctors, published in the American Journal of Cardiology [1], that statins should be distributed with McDonald’s value meals to reverse the cholesterol-raising effects of cheeseburgers metabolic syndrome induced by sugar and omega-6 fat toxicity.

Various bloggers have discussed their proposal, and if you are interested here are some links:

We rarely discuss drugs, since we’re diet and nutrition focused, but briefly, statins should be avoided because they do a mix of benefits and harms, of which the benefits are minor and can be better achieved by other means, and the harms can be immense:

  • Coenzyme Q10 deficiencies impairing mitochondrial function and producing potentially life-threatening muscle weakness (myopathy).
  • Cholesterol deficiencies impairing cell movement, cell division, and wound healing and increasing risk of infectious disease and cancer.
  • A myriad of other effects, including liver damage, kidney damage, and cataracts.

It appears that the benefits of statins are achieved mainly through two mechanisms – an elevation of vitamin D synthesis and a mild anti-inflammatory effect. (Cholesterol-lowering drugs which lack these effects have proven to be highly poisonous.) Normalizing vitamin D levels through sunshine and supplements would eliminate the first benefit; eating a diet low in food toxins would eliminate the second benefit. So for people practicing healthy diets, there is likely to be no benefit from statins at all, and much harm.

It’s telling that clinical trials conducted since trial regulations were tightened a few years ago have failed to show any benefit from statins. [2] Earlier trials were biased in various ways, including in many cases a failure to report overall mortality or deaths from infectious disease and cancer, and a severe publication bias in which trials producing negative effects were suppressed.

Meanwhile simple, inexpensive steps like supplementation can have much bigger health benefits than statins. Normalizing vitamin D levels can cut mortality in half [3, 4] and supplementing vitamin K2 can reduce mortality by 26%. [5]

So, if we don’t normally discuss drugs, what prompted this post?  My eye was caught by Stephan’s observation that farm subsidy modifications could greatly improve public health:

Rather than giving people statins along with their Big Mac, why don’t we change the incentive structure that artificially favors the Big Mac, french fries and soft drink? If it weren’t for corn, soybean and wheat subsidies, fast food wouldn’t be so cheap. Neither would any other processed food. Fresh, whole food would be price competitive with industrial food, particularly if we applied the grain subsidies to more wholesome foods.

I’ve long advocated this change myself. It’s ironic that the US government managed to pick the most toxic foods – wheat, corn, and soybeans – for its agricultural subsidies. 

It’s often pointed out that U.S. longevity is worse than would be expected based on our GDP. Here’s a chart from gapminder.org – click for a legible version:

If you fit a curve and measure distance beneath the curve, among rich nations only Brunei, Qatar, and maybe Luxembourg and Liechtenstein perform worse than the US. Americans die years earlier than we ought.

The reason for this is probably mainly our agricultural subsidies and the high intake of toxic foods they have engendered. (Our high intake of health-impairing drugs like statins may also contribute.) As I commented on Stephan’s blog:

If we ate rice instead of wheat, butter instead of soybean oil, and drank tea instead of corn syrup, Americans might be the longest-lived people in the world.

Diet and nutrition are the keys to health, yet they are the ugly stepchildren of American medicine. Drugs remain the favored and spoiled son, producing little but beloved.

References

[1] Ferenczi EA et al. Can a Statin Neutralize the Cardiovascular Risk of Unhealthy Dietary Choices? Am J Cardiol. 2010 Aug 15;106(4):587-592. http://pmid.us/20691321.

[2] de Lorgeril M. Disappointing recent cholesterol-lowering drug trials: is it not time for a full reappraisal of the cholesterol theory? World Rev Nutr Diet. 2009;100:80-9. http://pmid.us/19696530.

[3] Dobnig H et al. Independent association of low serum 25-hydroxyvitamin d and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin d levels with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. Arch Intern Med. 2008 Jun 23;168(12):1340-9. http://pmid.us/18574092.

[4] Pilz S et al. Vitamin D and mortality in older men and women. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2009 Nov;71(5):666-72. http://pmid.us/19226272.

[5] Geleijnse JM et al. Dietary Intake of Menaquinone Is Associated with a Reduced Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: The Rotterdam Study. J Nutr. 2004 Nov;134(11):3100-5. http://pmid.us/15514282.

  1. My husband’s diet is atrocious, He’s been very overweight for decades, has had two angioplasties the first one 13 years ago and the last a couple of months ago which resulted in three stents.

    He takes a colorful array of drugs including statins which allow him to more or less function while continuing to overeat his usual diet heavy on bread, pasta and sweets.

    Obviously if he didn’t take the pills, he wouldn’t be alive. He simply won’t or can’t change his eating habits, so what’s the answer? Stop the pills and let him die or let him continue what he’s doing until his body breaks down again. He’s had other major health problem as well and of course, he’s also a candidate for diabetes which is prevalent in his family.

    Sorry for this long comment, but I’ve been dealing with this situation for a very long time and am at my wit’s end now. BTW, we’re both 75.

    Thanks for listening.

    • erp, my heart goes out to you. As we know, there’s little you can do to change another person’s desires.

      When we first got married my wife tried to change my terrible diet. She failed for years, to her frustration. The biggest issue was that I was in the early stages of my brain infection, hypoglycemia in the brain is a symptom, and sugar relieves the symptoms. So I kept drinking soda to get more sugar and feel normal for a bit. I didn’t have enough confidence that changing my diet would effect a long-term improvement, so I went for short-term advantages.

      A mixed experience with some Chinese herbal medicine gave me hope that at least some major symptoms could be relieved by changes in nutrition or food. Then I began to learn about low-carb Paleo diets. It was the good results others had on those that persuaded me to give them a try. Once I was convinced that significant improvements were possible, and that I knew which improvements to make, I was willing to make the effort to change my diet.

      I don’t know what might change his diet, if the surgeries haven’t scared him straight. I would try giving him a copy of our book when it comes out; maybe the evidence there, like the things I read five years ago, will give him enough conviction to make an effort.

      I would also look to little changes like supplementing vitamin D, vitamin K2, selenium, iodine, and magnesium. These can make a big difference in health and don’t require giving up foods he loves.

      Also, you can improve your own health and maybe he’ll be so impressed by your newly-acquired youthfulness he’ll want to copy you.

      Prayer is always worthwhile too, though mysterious in its effects. Perhaps if you get him to pray for health with you, it will make him feel obligated to work on it.

  2. I plan to get him to read your book. My diet is far different from his, but until I read your book and actually set up meal plans, etc. I won’t change over completely.

    He’s had bladder and prostate cancer, melanoma, borderline anemia, one atrophied kidney and only 40% function in the other one and other problems of a lesser nature. I’d have to pass any supplements by his nephrologist.

  3. Perfect Health Diet » Why You Shouldn’t Supplement Calcium - pingback on August 20, 2010 at 12:29 pm

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