The Dark Side of Statins

Lately statins, a class of drugs utilized to reduce levels of fats, including cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood, have become big news. Why? Because they are so amazing and save lives? Actually, quite the opposite. It is the dangerous side effects of statins that are making headlines everywhere from major news outlets in Great Britain, to NPR in the US.

Statins are a pharmaceutical used to treat heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the US. According to the CDC, more than 600,000 people die of cardiovascular disease (CVD) each year; in fact, 1 in 4 deaths in this country are caused by it.1

Statins are big business. As many as 1 in 4 Americans take this cholesterol lowering drug to prevent the risk of coronary artery disease. Pharmaceutical companies make $29 billion annually from statins which are marketed under brand names such as Lipitor, Zocor, Mevacor, and Crestor to name just a few.

Potential Side Effects Caused by Statins

So, what is the problem with these cholesterol lowering drugs? It is the numerous side effects they cause. Over the years many studies have reported on a very wide range of negative side effects caused by taking statins. Below are just a handful of these disconcerting findings which span from neurological issues to diabetes.

1. Inhibit Neurological Health

Statin users have a higher incidence of neuropathy, memory loss, and depression2

2. Inhibit Omega-3 Fatty Acid Production

Statins increase the production of omega-6 fatty acids which compete with omega-3 fatty acids through various pathways, yet, studies demonstrate that it is omega-3’s that are protective against the risks of CVD3

3. Weaken the Immune System

Statins interfere with the body’s use of CoQ10, a substance which supports the immune, nervous, and musculoskelatal systems, and at its most base level is absolutely critical for mitochondrial health 4

4. Increase Insulin Resistance

One study found that a variety of statins impact carbohydrate metabolism negatively, and increase the incidence of new onset diabetes (NOD)5

5. Reduce Quality of Sleep

A study by the American Heart Association found that the statin Zocor caused such severe muscle pain in some of its users that it disrupted their sleep patterns.6

Millions of Americans who haven’t been diagnosed with heart disease are taking these drugs to lower slightly elevated cholesterol. Personally, I’m very glad I dodged this bullet. My cholesterol is over 200 and as a middle aged woman I am the perfect candidate for this class of drugs. When offered to me I turned statins down as I was told side effects could include muscle aches, flu-like symptoms, and more. I had no interest in compromising my daily quality of life for an unclear long term gain.

As someone diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a severe neurological disorder, I am very fortunate that I said no to statins. Why? Because the brain is 2% of the body’s weight, but contains 25% of its cholesterol.7 In my continuous, ongoing investigation to heal this condition and rebuild my myelin sheaths, I have found that I need more fat, not less!

So how do I ensure my cholesterol levels are healthy? I went on a grain-free diet in 2001 which has helped me maintain low levels of triglycerides, ranging between the 30’s and 50’s. It is thought that a Paleo diet can help to reduce triglyceride levels because it is free of grains, and therefore very low in omega-6 fatty acids.

In 2014, I went on a high-fat ketogenic diet which has helped my neurological issues, given me more energy, and has not increased my cholesterol levels whatsoever.

Numerous studies and articles such as the ones I have linked to above show that statins may be dangerous for your health. Do you take statins? If so, what side effects (positive or negative) have you experienced? If you don’t take statins, why did you say no?


79 responses to “The Dark Side of Statins”

  1. I just stopped taking statins a few weeks ago. The doctor had changed me from Crestor every other day to Lipitor every day. My hands started to feel numb and tingle,and muscle cramps were starting. I have developed diabetes and feared neuropathy was starting. I also had brain fog, difficulties concentrating and remembering. I almost had car accidents! Since I stopped the statins the symptoms are resolving or have disappeared. It is a bit scary because I had a triple by-pass and later had three stents. Since then I am further cleaning up my diet. Fortunately, I have a doctor who practices integrative medicine and is helping me with supplements. I have almost eliminated wheat. I learned that two slices of whole wheat bread are worse than a candy bar! It was also causing my blood sugar to spike. I did the before and after testing and found the wheat was in fact the cause. So if my blood sugar continues to drop, I will have eliminated a risk factor, hopefully my chloseterol and triglycerides will also drop.

  2. When my husband was on these things regularly for cholesterol, he was a bear to live with. His anger was so exaggerated, and he’s a pretty happy guy normally. When they tried to prescribe them to me because of my cholesterol, I ignored them. My numbers weren’t even that high and my ratios were good. Reducing meat, dairy and bread in my diet, increasing fresh greens, keeping a closer look on how I combined my foods helped me feel so much better.

  3. I have stayed away from Doctors for 30 years. I recently went to one for some problems. I think I will stay away for another 30 years. He took my cholesterol levels and went nuts. Of course, he recommended a statin. I declined. I am a woman of small stature, diabetic and over 65. These all put me at greater risk of side effects from statins.

    Statins work by preventing the liver from making cholesterol. They also happen to prevent the manufacturing of CoQ10.They deplete Potassium. When the liver does not make cholesterol, the blood sugar rises because it is no longer using sugars to make the cholesterol, so the sugars remain in the blood stream, upping the glucose levels.

    That statins lower cholesterol levels in most cases is undeniable. However, there is no evidence that lowering cholesterol levels does much of anything. Studies have shown that high cholesterol levels in women are not correlated with heart attacks. In men. there is a very slight correlation above 240. Not enough to justify risking the side effects of statins. Incidentally, high cholesterol is not dangerous unless you have plaque formation. Plaque formation is related to the level of inflammation in your body, which makes the arteries susceptible to plaque formation. Incidentally, the average total cholesterol level of heart attack patients is 174.

  4. I had one cardiologist tell me that statins are so safe they should be put in the municipal water supply. I remember telling him even aspirin isn’t that safe. I won’t take them.

    I’ve read about various negative side effects but the final straw was when my MIL developed dementia. They had to do special tests to rule out statin induced dementia.

  5. I cannot tolerate statins at all and have high cholesterol. I am seeing a board certified lipid specialist who determined I had a slow thyroid, convinced me to give up gluten and most grains, and get more exercise. The thyroid issue wouldn’t budge without meds, but I’m taking the Armour Thyroid which is derived from pigs, rather than the other which is out of a chemistry set and am doing much better. And about going gluten-free? My arthritis is GONE and most (not all of my grey hair hair grew back in with color. Go figure.

  6. I was prescribed a statin several years ago by my doctor, because, she said, I had too much “good cholesterol” and not enough “bad cholesterol” (?????) How confusing is that? When I started them, I went on a trip to a weeklong retreat in the mountains, very high altitude. For the entire week, I was terribly distressed and uncomfortable due to having no bowel movements at all! I chalked it up to high altitude, fighting off dehydration constantly, and a very high fiber vegetarian diet, which I am not used to. When I went home, the problem got worse. My stools were so bloody that I was losing about 1/4 cup of blood per bowel movement. Clearly the cause was not the altitude or the vegetarian diet. I read up on statins, bloody stools and extreme constipation is a common side effect. I went to my doctor and complained of my problem. She said, Oh, that’s not so bad. If you don’t continue to take them, you might have a heart attack. This is a minor side effect, don’t worry. But there was nothing at all normal about what was happening to my digestive system! I had felt just fine until I started taking the statins.

    When I stopped taking them, my digestion went back to normal. The upside was, I started paying close attention to my diet and made very healthy changes which ended up being much like the paleo diet. I feel better than ever, and I won’t touch those drugs again. I am certain that I’m better off without them and not at all worried about heart attacks. I also fired my doctor.

  7. WOW people!
    After reading this article and all comments my hair stands like a mountain!
    My total cholesterol is 184 – what is normal,
    LDL is 125 what is borderline or even normal,
    triglycerides is 101 what is also normal.
    My doctor said that with such test result I have to take statins to rest of my life!!!!
    but… I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes :(

  8. I took a statin and it caused my blood sugars to skyrocket. I stopped taking them and my blood sugars went back to normal. My doctor prescribed it to prevent stroke and not because of high cholesterol. From my experience I don’t think the doctors know all the affects of the drugs they prescribe, at least that was the case with my doctor. I asked my pharmacy and they gave me the info I needed. From now on before taking a medication I will do research on the medication before I take it.

  9. What infuriates me about doctors prescribing statins is that they never tell their patients that one has to take CoQ10 supplements with them. This helps prevent muscle damage. I always tell friends to take CoQ10 if I learn that they take statins. One followed my advice and her leg cramps disappeared.

    My supply out, I’ll switch to red yeast rice, but cut back. Thanks for the warning about how statins interfere with insulin resistance!

    • I have fibromyalgia and the muscle pain is very bad and a side effect of statins is muscle pain so I decided not to take it. Thank you for posting this article.

    • I have muscle pain and often muscle cramps. My brother told me he took CoQ10 and his pain went away. After reading your post, I’ll start taking it, too. This could be the missing link I’ve been looking for for 10 years!

  10. A FNP prescribed statins due to high cholesterol. I felt so bad I couldn’t even get out of bed and my feet were sore. I got off of them and withing 2 days I felt much better. I did not return to the FNP for fear of being reprimanded. I then went to my husband’s doctor who asked my statin dosage. When I told him, his eyes widened and said “that’s 10 times the dosage that I’m on” (I am a 5’4′, not overweight woman). He changed my dosage and my statin. I have always been very sensitive to medications and I continued to have the problem. I then began to take it every other day and was honest with my Dr about it. As I did more reading over the years, I became convinced that for me they do more harm than good and I have taken my own chances.
    My last appointment- I told my Dr I was no longer on the statin because I want to feel well, not sick.. He told me “I quit taking them too. They are going to take them off the market some day.”
    Long story short-Be your own advocate!

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