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. Took them for one week and the pain was so bad in my muscles I wanted to cry. It even hurt to put my purse on my shoulder. Immediately went off and so thankful I did!

    • I also was prescribed a statin and was told that I must take it….I also had been diagnosed with ms. I suffered through painful tests for the diagnosis, meanwhile the statin and b/p medication seemed to not be in agreement with my body and also my mind……I started a no grain diet and HUGE improvements resulted.
      I no longer use the prevastatin nor the lisinopril. My blood checks out to be very good and excellent blood pressure. I am taking in physical therapy (Rolfing)to no longer use my cane and am doing remarkably well!
      Please be assured that autoimmune issues can be treated very well by diet. Read: Plant Paradox…the no is good to know, pick and choose what you’d like to apply….you will not be sorry.

  2. If you look at the recent studies on statins, there is no benefit for women at all and very little benefit for men (1-4% if they have already had a heart attack) and I think it was zero for men that have not had a heart attack but would have to check that figure again.

    The side effects are tremendous and we probably don’t even know the full extent of it.
    Memory loss (Dementia) is a big one plus diabetes.

    My father has taken a statin drug for about 20 years and has been having memory loss issues for probably about 10 years now and at this point can’t function on his own. Highly likely caused by the statin drug.

    I have 4 family members that have developed diabetes after being on a statin drug for a year or so – so there is also a very high risk of this happening.

  3. Hi there, I just stumbled upon your site and love it! So… I am on crestor for a year now. I am 52 and extremely healthy . I follow (my whole life) a mainly plant diet with the occasional grass fed beef or wild salmon. I work out daily, yoga, cycle, I am very fit. blah blah :) My Cholesterol was dangerously high and asked my MD to do a calcium score(which I failed) I have heart disease, shocking! I was scared straight and went on the meds and oh yeah, I am on BP as well. My father dropped dead at 48 so I am scared the same can happen to me. These drugs also save lives. BUT… I HATE being on them I have always treated myself holistically.Any advise for someone like me? Yes I did red rice and high omegas. Have done so for years and years. Thanks for any input

    • Hi Paige, thanks for your comment. It sounds like you have tried a number of lifestyle and diet changes. If you are not happy with where your cholesterol is, then perhaps the route you have chosen is what’s best for you. I think taking certain drugs is a very personal decision. My main concern in writing this article is to point out the over-prescription of statins (for the benefit of big pharma) to people that are not as educated as yourself.

  4. Several years ago I found out my triglycerides were dangerously high, over 400 if I recall correctly. My doctor was very worried and wanted to put me on statins immediately. I asked her to prescribe something natural first. She said “it won’t work but try 2000 mg of salmon oil daily and cut back on sugar.” Three months later we did follow up blood work. When the doctor came into my exam room she rather suspiciously asked me if I’d seen the test results, as if someone was conspiring something. She’s a great gal and doc btw but she was certain there was something afoot. “Your triglycerides are down to 84. I don’t understand it, it’s some kind of a fluke.” Fortunately the ‘fluke’ has stayed within healthy ranges ever since and according to many reports, I missed a huge bullet. #healthylifestyle #statins #dangerouspharmaceuticals

  5. Just wanted you to know. I had high colesterol for years. Luckily it was always borderline (200 to 210) at the highest and my Dr. knew it ran in the family so I was never put on any meds for it. My bloodtests a couple of years ago also showed low protein so I used your recipe for your almond flour cho. chip scones. The next year my protein levels were fine and also my colesterol levels had dropped to 189 and both my ldl and hdl were good. I love having one for breakfast because it stays with me and I don’t get hungry. Thanks for your great recipes.

  6. Elana, I am a huge fan of your website & use your recipes frequently as neither my son nor I can tolerate wheat.
    With regard to statins, you may be interested to take a look at the website of a UK doctor (a GP or general practitioner as we say over the pond). He has done a huge amount of work exposing the dangers of statins. His blog may be found here:
    Thank you so much for your creative recipes.
    Best wishes from the UK

  7. Hi Elana,

    For more info on statins I can recommend Dr David Brownstein, a holistic doctor who writes about the negative effects of statins as well as other prescribed drugs. His posts are well researched and easy for a lay person to understand.

    It is great to know that Elana and the others who have commented have discovered that there are other, healthy alternatives to pharmaceuticals. Thanks for your post!

  8. I recently caved & filled a prescription for this stuff that my Endocrinologists called in. He has been recommending these meds for years because of studies that show they protect the cells of the kidneys (& other stuff I can’t remember at the moment). I am a Type 1 diabetic for 30+ years so he feels that the benefits outweigh the risk of medication side effects. I filled them a month ago and haven’t started taking them because of what you list here.

    • I’m an RN, and the “kidney” part of your comment caught my eye. If your doctor prescribed a medication to protect your kidneys, it’s probably not a statin drug. If the drug name ends in -pril or -sartan, that’s a blood pressure medication that can help reduce the risk of kidney damage in patients with diabetes.

  9. I also have MS (Primary-Progessive), have had thyroid issues for 15 years and high cholesterol until a year ago. Every doctor wanted to put me on statins, I aways declined and had to explain to the last 3 docs that cholesterol is elevated in people with auto-immune disorders that are not under control. Once I got all my immune issues mostly ironed out, (I’ve been grain free for 5 years, went on a nutritional keto diet a year ago), my triglycerides leveled in the 40-50 range, cholesterol dropped under 200 for the first time, resting blood sugar levels in the 80’s – everything “normalized” and I felt better than I had in years. I supplement (red rice yeast, coQ10, cinnamon, tryptophan, etc.) and exercise as well. Though I will always have a certain level of pain, because my MS is a bit more aggressive, I have found that I do not have to take pharmaceuticals at this point simply through an aggressive lifestyle change. I am grateful for sites like your’s, where I can go for great recipes and information.

    • Hi Katie, thanks for sharing your story of MS and statins with us. I know it will help others in our situation!

  10. I have been using red yeast rice but after reading all this my husband and I are going paleo diet. somewhere I read that elana you used flax seed also to help lower your cholesterol but I cant find where that comment is. I would like to try that also. I have all of your cookbooks and I want to say thank you for all of your help. I was diagnosed with celiacs 6 years ago at age 56 and I was really lost until I found your site. it has been very helpful! I also have ibs, fibromyalgia, arthritis. I am sure caused by the celiacs. I am also on the fodmap diet for the ibs so I understand how you feel about giving up more food that you love. our very best wishes to you always, sincerely, marian

    • Hi Marian! Thanks for your comment and for being such a longtime loyal fan! My flaxmeal tea drink is on page 122 of Paleo Cooking from Elana’s Pantry:

      I drink it every morning and love it :-)


      • Hello, my husband has had high cholesterol, high blood pressure and borderline diabetes for years. We have been on a Paleo diet for 2 years now. His cholesterol is perfect, no more high blood pressure and he sugar has been normal. Miso use a lot of flax seed and coconut oil. Anyone who takes statins should read “Grain Brain” by the Nuerologist, DR. David Perlmutter. Very informative .

        Thank you Elana for all your recipes and helping me stay on this plan of action. Judy :)

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