Thursday, November 13, 2008
Statin Drugs And Increased Risk Of Diabetes
The Morning Edition of NPR this morning reported on a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that supported the use of statin drugs to lower the risk of heart attack, even for those with normal cholesterol levels. Use of statins, however, lead to an increased risk in the development of diabetes.
It is argued by the reporter that the study illuminates why those with what is considered a normal cholesterol range can still end up having heart attacks. It is argued that really low cholesterol levels is the key to heart health. What I don't understand is why he jumped to that conclusion instead of considering a different possibility: that cholesterol levels have nothing to do with the likelihood that an individual would have a heart attack. I'm not suggesting that high LDL's don't play any part in the formation of plaque in arteries, but there are other factors, including lifestyle factors, that don't necessarily get put into print when these studies are conducted. Just as there are reports of people with normal to low cholesterol levels having heart attacks, there are those with high cholesterol levels not having heart attacks.
The article brings up the point of view of Dr. Lori Mosca of Columbia University. She says that putting patients on a lifetime regimen of statin drugs is not the best answer to the problem. She notes that she can tell who is at risk for a heart attack by the size of their waistline, and recommends putting patients on diet and exercise programs before prescribing them any drugs.
The thing about pharmaceutical drugs is that they are very good at what they do. Statin drugs in particular prevent the liver from producing cholesterol. Cholesterol is used throughout the whole body; it forms the backbone of a lot of different hormones, and the different kinds of cholesterol keep the body in a constant flux of homeostasis. Really low levels of cholesterol in the body result in depression of mental acuity, anemia, acidosis, frequent fevers and cataracts. Taking a statin drug in high doses and/or over a long period of time can have deleterious effects not yet "proven" by studies.
The inhibition of cholesterol production with a statin drug also stops the production of two other necessary substances in the body: Co-Q10 and dolichols. The heart muscles require high levels of Co-q10 in order to function. Dolichols are used by the body to ensure that things coded for in the DNA reached their programmed target. Without dolichols, there is an increased likelihood for unknown things to occur on the cellular level.
High cholesterol is a disease that shows no outward signs or symptoms. One can be perfectly happy and healthy and have what is considered to be high cholesterol. Diabetes, on the other hand, is a disease that is usually diagnosed after the symptoms have already begun to show. Things like thirst, fatigue, blurring of vision, tingling of extremities, sweating, feelings of nausea or dizziness, etc. Both diseases can be prevented or controlled by proper diet and exercise. Taking a statin drug for an asymptomatic disease just to increase your risk for diabetes, which itself increases the risk of heart disease, sounds like running around in circles. Which, ironically enough, is probably the best thing to do.