Coenzyme Q10, Vitamin D and C among key supplements needed to protect against the side effects of statin drugs that are taken to lower cholesterol but often have other damaging consequences
If you, or someone you know, are one of the 1 in 3 people over 45 taking Statins to lower your cholesterol, then you will benefit by knowing the specific mechanism that statin drugs interrupt in the body – this is the mechanism that reduces cholesterol production, but it also reduces other important biochemical reactions that you need. This knowledge will then immediately suggest that you need to supplement yourself with a few things in order to prevent heart disease. (And of course, I must add that unless you have an extremely rare genetic order, you should be able to slowly wean yourself off statins in the next 3 to 12 months by eating a delicious, healthy, and fat-full (NOT low-fat) diet designed specifically to reduce your cholesterol naturally. This is what I have done over the last year, without the need for drugs and the dangerous side effects that come with them.)
If you just want the cheat sheet (ie – just tell me what supplements to take), then scroll down to the bottom for a bulleted list.
How do Statins work?
The chemical pathway that Statins interrupt, does of course reduce cholesterol, but it also reduces other necessary intermediary substances which have their own important biochemical functions.
According Dr. Peter H. Langsjoen, “The resulting lowering of blood CoQ10 level is due to the partially shared biosynthetic pathway of CoQ10 and cholesterol. In patients with heart failure this is more than a laboratory observation. It has a significant harmful effect which can be negated by oral CoQ10 supplementation.”
The need for Coenzyme Q10
In addition to the above, another warning is also required by authorities to be clearly spelled out in Canadian statin ads:
“All statins sold in Canada are required to carry a warning that they may seriously deplete Coenzyme Q10 levels in the body, which can lead to impaired heart function in people with congestive heart failure. Taking a Coenzyme Q10 supplement is especially important for those on statins who have Familial hypercholesterolemia (inherited raised cholesterol levels), heart failure, or who are over 65 years of age. Research confirms that combining a statin drug with 60mg Coenzyme Q10 improves the health benefits to your heart, compared with taking the statin alone.”
“Statins lower coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) levels and they raise Lipoprotein(a) levels.”
Vitamin C, Lipoprotein (a), Statins and cholesterol reduction
Because the U.S. does not require similar warnings as are required for Canadian drug ads, few American doctors are aware of the these hazards,”, says Owen Fonorow, director of Houston-based Vitamin C Foundation. So why is an increased level of Lipoprotein (a) a problem? The Cardiologist’s Choice website article reports that:
“Almost one third of people who suffer a premature heart attack (before the age of 55 in men or 65 in women) have an elevated Lp(a) level—and they don’t know their level is high. A high Lp(a) level increases your risk of coronary heart disease by an incredible 200 to 300% even if your good and bad cholesterol levels are normal. High Lp(a) is an extremely dangerous cardiac risk factor that requires specialized treatment.”
200 – 300% risk increase!! Gulp. So what to do about this? In this article by Dr. Michael Lam, he suggests that we can reduce our statin induced Lipoprotein (a) levels through Vitamin C supplementation. But then things get really weird. When you start to dig into the research results from Vitamin C supplementation, while limited, it seems to suggest that Vitamin C actually does much the same thing as statins (reduce cholesterol via the same chemical pathway as statins do), while delivering a shed load of other benefits, and without the statin side effects. What the what? Why are we on statins in the first place? Ok, I’m going to park that question for awhile – that’s a post that’s been covered well by many other blogs. Here’s a good one in the Huffington Post, as well as this one from Scientific American, and this one outlining the dangers of statins by the Westin Price Foundation. So putting aside the quizzical face and the “why” questions, Vitamin C seems to be in order here too.
The need for Vitamin D
When on Statins, if you have a deficiency of Vitamin D, this has been linked to some myopathy (disease of the muscle tissue), as well as myalgia (pain in a muscle), however the studies are few in number. It has been suggested by a March 2011 review of the medical literature, that Vitamin D could be tried as a supplement to statins, to be used with patients who have reduced Vitamin D levels. Considering that a significant proportion of the population have a Vitamin D deficiency in general, with the Vitamin D council estimating that is it the most common medical condition in the world with 50% of the global population suffering from a deficiency, then it seems like a wise supplement to take for heart health in general, and definitely if you are on Statins.
The seemingly inconclusive yet strongly supportive evidence for Vitamin E
So it sounds like there is conflicting advice about the interaction between Vitamin E and Statins. Or is there? It has been suggested that “one of the reasons why more recent studies with vitamin E have not shown the same benefit as earlier studies may turn out to be that higher dosages of vitamin E alone and in combination with CoQ10 are required to compensate for the detrimental effects of the now extremely popular statin drugs have on their metabolism.”
Additionally, the studies of Vitamin E in isolation did not take into account the known problem of the need for complimentary antioxidants to work together. “While diets rich in antioxidant nutrients have consistently shown tremendous protection against cardiovascular disease, clinical trials using antioxidant vitamins and minerals have produced inconsistent results.
This failure may be due to several factors, most importantly the fact that the human antioxidant system represents a complex scenario of interacting components. It is unlikely that any single antioxidant would be proven to be effective especially in the absence of a supporting cast… In addition to Vitamin C, Vitamin E also requires selenium and Coenzyme Q10 to work efficiently.”
Therefore, the Supplements you should take, if on statins, to reduce dangerous side effects and support heart health are:
Of course like any change to your medication, you should ask your doctor if there would be any conflicts with your medication before taking the following:
- Coenzyme Q10: (aka Ubiquinol): Take 60mg / day
- Vitamin D: Dr. Mehmet Oz recommends getting 800 IUs of Vitamin D a day if you’re younger than 60 and 1,000 IUs if you’re over 60, which is similar to the Mayo Clinic’s recommended dose.
- Vitamin C: Studies have shown that a minimum of 500mg/ day helps lower LDL cholesterol levels. Personally I take 1500 mg / day. Also, when Finnish researchers looked at studies involving nearly 300,000 people over 10 years, they found that taking more than 700 milligrams of C supplements daily reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease by 25 percent. And a recent study from Harvard University researchers hints that women who take a combo of 500 milligrams of vitamin C daily and 600 IU of vitamin E (another antioxidant) can cut their risk of stroke by 30 percent.
- Vitamin E: 400IU / day
- Selenium: The amount in a standard multivitamin is sufficient
- And of course, as the Mayo Clinic reminds us, supplement programmes like the one above does not give you the excuse to eat whatever you want. The best recommendation for heart health is to eat a heart friendly diet and exercise 3 to 5 times a week.