As I’m sure you’re well aware, drugs to lower cholesterol are among the most successful in history. But the list of side effects is quite long, and it just got longer.
I have covered many of the common cholesterol lowering drug side effects in a previous article that can be read by clicking here. Many of these side effects can be predicted based on the fact that statins, while lowering your cholesterol number (and let’s face it–that’s pretty much all they do is lower the number of a single marker in your bloodstream) they also block the production of a compound called Coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10.
Another name for CoQ10 is ubiquinone is because it is present everywhere in our cells. And it’s there because it’s important for every single cell to generate energy for that cell to function the way it was supposed to function. Kind of makes you wonder why Mother Nature put the path to create cholesterol on the same path as something as critically important as CoQ10, huh?
So basically, when a cholesterol lowering drug lowers CoQ10 in the cell, all kinds of bad things can happen to pretty much every cell in the body, the worst side effect being death from fatal rhabdomyolosis, a condition where your muscle essentially melt away from the massive damage. The debris that gets kicked into your circulation essentially shuts down the kidneys.
Most notably, any cell with a high metabolic activity that requires lots of energy (in the form of ATP) can suffer from the statin class of drugs. That is why the heart can be damaged by statins (kind of ironic, don’t you think) and why muscle aches and pains are the greatest problems with statin use.
However, the largest utilizer of glucose in the human body at rest is the central nervous system. Yes–your brain.
So, could this class of drugs to lower cholesterol lead to brain damage? It certainly makes sense and is supported by the results in this particular study.
Granted, the group of patients studied were patients who had pre-existing cardiovascular disease (and would almost all be put on statins) and had an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) put in as a result. So maybe not your average population and probably doesn’t apply to you directly. However, it is highly likely that the brain cells of these patients with the ICD function pretty darn close to the way your brain cells function, so don’t dismiss the results too quickly.
For those of you in the mental health field, researchers used both the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale and the Medical Outcomes Study Short Form 36-item Health Survey. Overall, of 409 patients in this study, 60% were on statins.
Here’s what they found on statin use (regardless of the type of statin used or the dosage):
- Associated with poorer physical role limitations (basically–physical things were more challenging).
- Poorer social functioning
- Poorer emotional role limitations
- There was an association with depression and physical functioning as well, but the relationship was not as strong.
- Overall, statin therapy was associated with impaired health status on 3 of the 8 on the SF36-item Health Survey (Tweet this).
Overall, it was clear that, at least in this specific population, statin drugs led to a deterioration in health and mental health status as a result of taking drugs to lower cholesterol. To be fair, the benefits of the statin class of drugs IS better in secondary preventation (preventing a second heart attack) so the risk / benefit ratio may be different than in primary prevention (preventing that first heart attack).
However, remember that lifestyle changes (my recommendations can be found by clicking here) do NOT worsen cognitive function or damage muscles or increase the risk of arthritis or make your eyeballs pop out and dangle by the optic nerve.