In my book The Doctor’s Heart Cure, I dedicated an entire chapter to the misinformation surrounding cholesterol and statin drugs.
You know how strongly I feel about the myth that cholesterol causes heart disease and that Big Pharma’s drugs are the only way to rid your body of dangerous cholesterol.
Both are false beliefs that have taken us in the wrong direction as we watch heart disease continue to skyrocket in this country.
As a matter of fact, cholesterol-lowering drugs interfere with vital processes necessary for maintaining health, including energy production in your heart and your capacity to calm oxidative stress in your heart and arteries. The side effects are well documented and create additional problems.
So when the Imperial College of London released a recent study claiming up to 90% of statin side effects are all in your head I was shocked. These researchers concluded that most side effects were imagined, not real.
I completely disagree… and in a moment I’ll show how you can greatly improve your odds of enjoying a strong, robust heart your whole life.
But first, as one of the early voices sounding the alarm on statins, let me explain why I’m so concerned about this particular study.
Statin Dangers are Documented and Proven… Not Imagined
Statin side effects are well documented — brain fog, fatigue, depression, muscle-tissue death, kidney and liver failure, and more.
Just take a look at the FDA warnings. The FDA, one of the most pro-statin agencies in the world, has issued consumer advisories warning of “an increased risk” of type 2 diabetes, memory loss, diabetes, and liver damage due to statins, to name just a few.[i]
One of statins’ most serious side effects is the depletion of up to 40% of the vital CoQ10 used by every cell in your body.[ii] That’s alarming because heart muscle mitochondria MUST have CoQ10 to function. Indeed, statin users and heart-failure patients share something in common – they’re both deficient in CoQ10.[iii]
Between 1997 and 2004, the FDA reported at least 81 people died from statin-drug complications.[iv] The actual number is probably much higher.
In fact, I tell my patients to toss their statins in the trash. That’s how harmful they are.
Cholesterol isn’t the underlying cause of heart disease anyway. As I point out in my book The Doctor’s Heart Cure, about 75% of heart attack victims have normal cholesterol levels.[v] And in one study, seniors taking statins had an 18% higher risk of all-cause mortality.[vi]
That’s why I insist doctors and patients need to pay more attention to statin symptoms, not less.
Did Researchers ‘Imagine’ Their Results?
In the study, participants received a modest 20 mg dose of Atorvastatin half the time and a placebo the other half. Many patients were taking placebos, not statins, when they complained of side effects.[vii] [viii]
The study’s big problem is its design. It’s an “N-of-1” study rather than a group-study design, meaning it just focuses on individuals. Without getting too far in the weeds, N-of-1 studies are not applicable to the population at large. So it’s quite misleading to cite this study as evidence that most statin side effects are imagined.
But what really caught my eye was the list of patients NOT allowed to participate. Researchers excluded:
- Any statin user who’d experienced sharply higher creatine kinase enzymes indicating serious muscle-tissue damage.
- Patients on statins who’d experienced rhabdomyolysis. This occurs when smooth-muscle cells burst open and spill into your bloodstream, endangering your liver and kidneys.
- Subjects who’d experienced severe anaphylactic allergic reactions from statins.
- And finally, patients suffering statin-related liver problems.
So let me get this straight: A study dismissing the side effects of statins issued a litany of side effects so serious anyone who’d had them would be barred from the study.
I think that tells you all you need to know about the very real dangers of statins.
Four Proven Ways to Boost Your HDL
Statins reduce both “bad” LDL cholesterol and “good” HDL cholesterol. Yet high HDL is one of your best defenses against heart disease. In fact, if you can increase your HDL to 85, studies show your heart attack risk is virtually nil.
Here’s how you can boost your HDL:
- Eat purple. My regular readers already know colorful vegetables and fruits – eggplant, red cabbage, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries – are packed with beneficial antioxidants. But you probably didn’t realize they simultaneously raise HDL and lower LDL… by about 14% apiece.[ix]
- Banish carbs from your kitchen. Over time, the insulin spikes triggered by eating cheap carbohydrates suppress HDL. Even worse, you’ll find them combined with transfats in cookies, cakes, frozen pizza, and even some non-dairy creamers – and transfats increase LDL and reduce good HDL.
- Get more DHA omega-3 fatty acids. Researchers who tracked 55 Greenlanders in 2018 reported the omega-3 DHA increased HDL by over 7%. Equally important, it decreased the prevalence of the small LDL particles considered most dangerous.[i] I recommend supplements offering at least 500 mg of DHA, preferably from krill and calamari harvested near the cleaner polar regions of the oceans.
- Supplement with vitamin B3. Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, can increase HDL by over 30%.[ii] Good food sources include grass-fed beef, wild-caught salmon, and free-range poultry. But to maximize your HDL, I suggest you also supplement. Start with 250 mg of niacin and ramp up gradually to 750 to 1,000 mg daily. If you experience the warm, prickly sensation called “niacin flush,” you can split your dose and take it twice daily. But avoid “no-flush” niacin… I’ve found it’s ineffective at raising HDL.
- Try black elderberry. There’s growing evidence the same black elderberry that eases cold and flu symptoms is also a powerful HDL booster. In one animal study black elderberry increased HDL by 26%, possibly due to its sky-high anthocyanin content.[iii] It’s available in a variety of forms – the liquid extract, frozen berries, and a powder you can add to your tea or smoothies. The extract offers the strongest concentration.
[i] Yanai, H., Masui, Y., Katsuyama, H., Adachi, H., Kawaguchi, A., Hakoshima, M., … Sako, A. (2018). An Improvement of Cardiovascular Risk Factors by Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids. Journal of Clinical Medicine Research, 10(4), 281–289. https://doi.org/10.14740/jocmr3362w
[ii] Niacin to boost your HDL, ‘good,’ cholesterol. (2018). Retrieved from Clinic website: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/niacin/art-20046208
[iii] Millar, C. L., Duclos, Q., & Blesso, C. N. (2017). Effects of Dietary Flavonoids on Reverse Cholesterol Transport, HDL Metabolism, and HDL Function. Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal, 8(2), 226–239. https://doi.org/10.3945/an.116.014050
[i]“Controlling Cholesterol with Statins.” (2020). FDA. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/controlling-cholesterol-statins#3
[ii] Ghirlanda, G., Oradei, A., Manto, A., Lippa, S., Uccioli, L., Caputo, S., … Littarru, G. P. (1993). Evidence of plasma CoQ10-lowering effect by HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 33(3), 226–229. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1552-4604.1993.tb03948.x
[iii] Sharma, A., Fonarow, G. C., Butler, J., Ezekowitz, J. A., & Felker, G. M. (2016). Coenzyme Q10 and Heart Failure. Circulation: Heart Failure, 9(4), e002639. https://doi.org/10.1161/circheartfailure.115.002639
[iv]Sears, Al, M.D., (2004). The Doctor’s Heart Cure, published by Dragon Door Publications, Inc., pp. 48-49.
[v]Castelli, W. P. (1988). Cholesterol and lipids in the risk of coronary artery disease–the Framingham Heart Study. The Canadian Journal of Cardiology, 4 Suppl A, 5A10A. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3179802/
[vi]Han, B. H., Sutin, D., Williamson, J. D., Davis, B. R., Piller, L. B., Pervin, H., … Blaum, C. S. (2017). Effect of Statin Treatment vs Usual Care on Primary Cardiovascular Prevention Among Older Adults. JAMA Internal Medicine, 177(7), 955. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.1442
[vii] Wood, F. A., Howard, J. P., Finegold, J. A., Nowbar, A. N., Thompson, D. M., Arnold, A. D., … Francis, D. P. (2020). N-of-1 Trial of a Statin, Placebo, or No Treatment to Assess Side Effects. New England Journal of Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1056/nejmc2031173
[viii] Slomsky, A. (2021, February 3). “‘Important Conversations’ Are Needed to Explain the ‘Nocebo’ Effect’.” Retrieved March 21, 2021, from Journal of the American Medical Association website: https://JamaNetwork.com/journals
[ix] Yanai, H., Masui, Y., Katsuyama, H., Adachi, H., Kawaguchi, A., Hakoshima, M., … Sako, A. (2018). An Improvement of Cardiovascular Risk Factors by Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids. Journal of Clinical Medicine Research, 10(4), 281–289. https://doi.org/10.14740/jocmr3362w