Summary: When you go through medical school you hear a lot about how 50% of what
you are learning will ultimately prove to be wrong, but nobody knows
which 50%. So as time and knowledge progress, eventually that 50% (or
some of it) comes to light. All the while a new 50% takes its place.
When you go through medical school you hear a lot about how 50% of
what you are learning will ultimately prove to be wrong, but nobody
knows which 50%. So as time and knowledge progress, eventually that 50%
(or some of it) comes to light. All the while a new 50% takes its place.
Some of what is taught as medical gospel can become foolish or
dangerous in time. Physicians of the future will look back upon us as
barbarians as we similarly may view our less advanced medical
predecessors. Probably most disciplines evolve along a similar path.
Well understood and nearly universally accepted “scientific truths” in
every field can turn out in time to be plumb wrong. Unfortunately, even
in our world of instant information transfer and massive electronic
pools of data, what was once the common wisdom takes a long time to be
questioned, as newer contradictory data shakes up or outright demolishes
what was once accepted without question.
So what does all this
have to do with the price of eggs in Shanghai? Let’s start our story at a
restaurant with 2 couples jabbering away (myself and my wife, Linda; my
friend, Howard and his wife, Faye). Of course as we all age, the topic
of health issues pops up more and more in our conversations. It turns
out Howard had developed muscle aches and general fatigue while taking a
low dose of a statin drug. These symptoms completely resolved when the
medication was withdrawn by his physician. He had encountered a
well-known statin side effect that’s mentioned in all the commercials.
What caught my attention was that the dose of the statin requires a
fork-lift to get the pill into my mouth.
After this experience, Howard decided to read a book titled: The great cholesterol myth: Why lowering your cholesterol won’t prevent heart disease – and the statin free plan that will.1
Basically, this book states that statins are really unhealthy drugs and
are needed for only a very small part of the population and have some
nasty side effects that are unlikely to be mentioned by prescribing
physicians. Probably no one would take any drug after being told of all
the side effects. The book points out that the effectiveness of statins
to actually prevent strokes and heart attacks (the ultimate goal of
treatment) is way oversold. One statin is reported to lower the heart
attack rate by 36%, but what that means is simply that for 100 people
taking the drug, there will be 3 heart attacks in the control group and 2
in the medication group. So to prevent one heart attack, 99 people
spend a lot of money and risk a lot of side effects.2 A point
from the book, which I like best, is that that one’s dietary habits may
not actually correlate with his or her blood cholesterol level anyway.
Wonderful, alright come to papa you juicy fried Maryland crab cakes!
is, of course, a vital component of cell membranes and a precursor of
all steroids and other hormones. Cholesterol is converted to Vitamin D
in the skin catalyzed by sunlight. In order to move fats through the
watery blood-stream, they need a protective protein covering, which is
how the liver packages them for transport. The actual levels of
cholesterol and high (good) and low-density (bad) lipoproteins that are
the recommended goals of treatment were, in no small part, influenced by
the pharmaceutical industry (really?). To see this process in action, I
suggest viewing a quick Youtube video.3
editorial, I certainly do not mistrust the pharmaceutical industry
(much). We all know most of its products safely treat a lot of illnesses
and prolong and improve the quality of our lives. Some products are
nothing short of miraculous. But, pharmaceutical companies are
businesses with stockholders and need to make profits on the drugs that
manage to jump all the hurdles to reach the market, and which require
years of research and tens of millions of dollars to create. However,
there is a commonly held perception that statin medications are so
successful, necessary, and safe, that they should, perhaps said in jest,
be put in our water supply. There’s lots of new and not so new evidence
to the contrary indicating the subject deserves more very robust and
transparent scientific scrutiny. It seems we may be the victims of
medical gospel that’s part of the 50% that’s wrong.4
am certainly no expert or even particularly knowledgeable about this
topic, but I know a real controversy when I see one. If statins are a
part of your life, which they are for one in 4 Americans 45 or older,
you just might want to check out the potential downsides a bit more
closely.5 The references here are a good starting point.1,2
Some experts believe that statin drugs deplete the body of CoenzymeQ10.
Remember that one from medical school? It helps run the Krebs cycle
powering your cells. A decreased level of CoenzymeQ10 may lead to muscle
weakness, soreness, and potentially heart failure. CoQ10 supplements
are found in most drug stores.
- Bowden J, Sinatra ST. The great cholesterol myth: Why lowering your
cholesterol won’t prevent heart disease – and the statin free plan that
will. Fair Winds Press. Beverly, MA. 2012.
- Mercola J. The cholesterol myth that could be harming your health.
http://www.huffington post. Com/dr-mercola-colesterol-myth. Updated
August 12, 2010. Accessed September 8, 2013.
- CNBC host recommends statins be put in the water supply. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmBnaJIQdUw. Accessed September 8, 2013.
- Parker-Pope T. Statins in the water? Not so fast.
Updated November 17, 2008. Accessed September 8, 2013.
- Wehrwein P. Statin use is up, cholesterol levels are down: Are
Americans’ hearts benefiting? Harvard Heath Publications.
Updated April 15, 2011. Accessed September 8, 2013.