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Cholesterol and Statins

Optibac: High Cholesterol and the Problem with Statins

High Cholesterol and the Problem with Statins

Understanding our bodies and how what we do on a day-to-day basis may improve or prevent long-term health issues, has never been a more pertinent subject. We are constantly bombarded with articles and information concerning diets we should follow, exercise regimes we should adopt and health conditions that we can avoid.

High cholesterol is one such condition that we are hearing more about, and understanding how high cholesterol affects our health, as well as what we can do to manage and prevent this condition is of paramount importance. According to the British Heart Foundation, 60% of adults in the UK have high cholesterol. The prevalence grows year-on-year and increases the risk of:

  • Atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries)
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke

When reading statistics like this, one realises that high cholesterol is a serious condition that needs to be understood and dealt with effectively in order to prevent serious health issues from developing.

Cholesterol is a waxy fat that is carried through the bloodstream and is required (among other things) to repair blood vessels, create hormones and process vitamins. In other words, we need cholesterol. We often hear it broken down into ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL) and ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL).

The great news is that having high cholesterol can be managed, but with all conditions, one must understand how it can be managed. Knowledge is power and with that in mind, we must look at what treatments are currently being used to reduce high cholesterol and whether there could be a better option out there…

The usual medical treatment for lowering high cholesterol is to be prescribed statins. Statins lower the amount of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) in the blood and are viewed as the ‘go-to’ medication for those members of the population who are suffering with high cholesterol. As a consequence, the UK is the world’s 2nd highest statin dispensing nation.

OK, so there is a way of treating this condition that reduces the amount of harmful cholesterol in our bodies, therefore this is where we have to focus our energy when looking for a treatment or prevention, right? Well, not exactly…

Like many medicines, when embarking on a course of treatment we cannot simply focus on the benefits, we also need comprehensive information so that we can understand and avoid the risks. Statins, like many pharmaceutical medications, come with a worrying list of side effects. These need to be considered and understood before beginning to take them.

It has been reported that 25% of people on statins suffer with side effects (NHS, 2012) they commonly include:

  • Muscles & joint pain
  • Nosebleeds
  • Headache-like symptoms
  • Digestive problems
  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)

There are also less common but more unpleasant side effects associated with taking statins, including:

  • Sickness
  • Blurred vision
  • Inflammation of the liver (hepatitis)
  • Ringing in the ears

Statins can also interact with other medicines that you may be prescribed such as antibiotics and warfarin. And many of those prescribed statins are often on the medication long-term, which, when you consider that high cholesterol isn’t merely a condition of the older population, could entail many years of statin use. For many people, long-term pharmaceutical use is something that they wish to avoid if possible, and they may be looking for a more natural option.

Optibac – For Your Cholesterol

This is where ‘For your cholesterol’, a new cholesterol-lowering probiotic from Optibac Probiotics may help you. Clinical trials have shown it to have health benefits for high cholesterol, but none of the less desirable side effects of statins.

Along with the specific probiotic strains that are contained in this product (Lactobacillus plantarum CECT 7527, Lactobacillus plantarum CECT 7528, Lactobacillus plantarum CECT 7529), it also includes Omega 3 which, in combination with the probiotics reduces inflammation in the body, reducing the risk of atherosclerosis. Alongside this, the inclusion of Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in ‘For your cholesterol’ has been shown in many clinical trials to reduce LDL cholesterol and inflammation. This combination of live cultures and omega 3 supports blood cholesterol levels by utilising 6 different mechanisms of action – including acting on both the liver’s natural production of cholesterol as well as on the absorption of dietary cholesterol in the gastro-intestinal tract. A clinical trial(1) showed total cholesterol levels lowered by an average of 14% in just 3 months of taking ‘For your cholesterol’.

Taking ‘For your cholesterol’ may help:

  • Reduce inflammation
  • Improve ratio of ‘good’ fats to ‘bad’ fats consumed
  • Down regulate your genes for cholesterol production

For those of us who may wish to continue with statin use, the good news is that ‘For your cholesterol’ can be safely taken alongside statins and any other medication you may already be on. However, this extensively researched product is safe to take on an ongoing basis with none of the side effects associated with cholesterol lowering medicine.

By Alexandra Ravenscroft, Nutritional Therapist

References
1. Fuentes MC et al. (2006) Cholesterol¬ lowering efficacy of Lactobacillus plantarum CECT 7527, 7528 and 7529 in hypercholesterolaemic adults. British Journal of Nutrition; pp 1 ¬- 7.

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Can CoEnzyme-Q10 combat statin side-effects?

A new study (1) confirms long-standing concerns about the side-effects of cholesterol-lowering statins. The study suggests that statin drugs can cause significant problems with energy levels and general fatigue, especially in women.

Statins are routinely prescribed to individuals with raised cholesterol levels and are among the most widely prescribed drugs in the UK. These drugs lower cholesterol levels by inhibiting a liver enzyme (HMG-CoA reductase) which plays a role in cholesterol production. Unfortunately this enzyme is also important for the production of Co-enzyme Q10. CoQ10 is a nutrient found in almost every cell in the body and is essential for energy production in the muscles.

The study, published in Archives of Internal Medicine, followed a group of individuals who were randomised to take one of two statins (simvastatin at 20 mg per day or pravastatin at 40 mg per day) or placebo for six months. Participants were rated at regular intervals through the study for their perceived fatigue on exertion, general fatigue and energy levels.

Overall, statins did indeed appear to cause a significant change in energy and worsen fatigue on exertion. Women were more affected than men.

In fact, 40% of the women receiving statins reported either a reduction in energy or a worsening of fatigue on exertion. 10% of the women reported that both of these issues were ‘much worse’.

Nuts contain CoQ10
Nuts contain Co-Enzyme Q10 (CoQ10) which is beneficial towards energy levels

Co-enzyme Q10 is essential for the ‘battery’ in each cell to power our muscles and organs. It is not surprising that depletion of CoQ10 can cause muscle weakness and fatigue. CoQ10 is also vital for heart function. According to one recent study (2), 71% of healthy people develop heart rhythm abnormalities when given statins.

It is important for those taking statins to be aware of the side-effects such as fatigue and muscle weakness, as these symptoms may only appear after some months or years after beginning statin treatment.

The good news is that those taking statins may be able to protect themselves from these side-effects by including good sources of CoQ10 in their diet. The richest dietary sources of this nutrient are organ meats such as liver and kidney, as these are the bodily organs that naturally store high levels of CoQ10. Other sources include oily fish, eggs, nuts and spinach.

For many individuals, dietary sources of CoQ10 may be inadequate to combat the draining effect of statins. In these cases I would recommend would be to supplementing 50 – 100 mg of CoQ10 each day.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

References

1. Golomb BA, et al. Effects of Statins on Energy and Fatigue With Exertion: Results From a Randomized Controlled Trial. Arch Int Med epub 11 June 2012

2. Silver MA, Langsjoen PH, Szabo S, Patil H, Zelinger A. (2004) Effect of atorvastatin on left ventricular diastolic function and ability of coenzyme Q10 to reverse that dysfunction. Am J Cardiol, 94(10):1306-10.

3. Image courtesy of Zole4

 

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