Statins Deplete Essential Nutrients and Worsen Health

By Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

August 1, 2023

Statins Deplete Essential Nutrients and Worsen Health
If you are taking a statin cholesterol lowering medication, you might have heard about the need to take coenzyme Q10, as the drug depletes this vital nutrient. This is indeed true, but statin drugs can also interfere with a variety of other nutrients. This interference can have other sinister effects that can worsen vascular calcification or stress tissue function.

Statin Drugs

Statin medications include:

• Atorvastatin (Lipitor)
• Cerivastatin (Baycol)
• Fluvastatin (Lescol XL)
• Lovastatin (Altocor, Altoprev, Mevacor, Pravachol)
• Pitavastatin (Livalo, Nikita, Zypitamag)
• Pravastatin (Pravachol), Rosuvastatin (Crestor, Ezallor)
• Simvastatin (FloLipid, Zocor)

Statin medications work by blocking an enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase, which is involved in the synthesis of mevalonate, a naturally occurring substance used to make cholesterol. Unfortunately, this same pathway also interferes with coenzyme Q10 production.

Coenzyme Q10

Decades ago, human studies confirmed that statin medications deplete coenzyme Q10. Individuals with higher statin prescription dosages, older age, poor diet, and mitochondrial stress are more likely to experience significant negative effects from statin use.

Vitamin K2

In addition to the worrisome depletion of coenzyme Q10, heated disputes have occurred about the safety of statins in other respects. One major concern is the association between statin drugs and increased vascular calcification This happens because statins interfere with vitamin K2 synthesis and function. Vitamin K2 is essential for the normal movement of calcium into tissues from the blood.

Clinical Trial: Vascular Calcification Worse in Statin Users

A recent cross-sectional clinical study evaluated adults with and without statin medication use, measuring vitamin K-dependent protein markers, vascular calcification scores, cholesterol markers, and other factors.

Results of the study showed convincing evidence of statin damage to cardiovascular health. They found that “statins may enhance calcium accumulation in arterial wall, namely, by inhibition of vitamin K dependent proteins and functions involved in vascular protection.”

The evidence further showed that “statins promote transformation of the spotty microcalcifications in the vulnerable atherosclerotic plaque into larger and denser sheet-like calcifications, thus leading to its stabilization.”

The conclusion of this clinical study revealed that “coronary calcification is more prominent in statin users than in non-users, regardless of the presence of established cardiovascular disease. Statin use was shown to better predict concerns with Coronary Arterial Calcification score than other known factors."

I encourage you to review the discussion and conclusion of the clinical study for more information. “Statins, vascular calcification, and vitamin K-dependent proteins: Is there a relation?” published February 2021 in the Kaohsiung Journal of Medical Sciences of Taiwan.

Selenium and Vitamin D

Statin drugs also affect the antioxidant-trace mineral selenium and possibly vitamin D.

Selenium is a highly important antioxidant that supports various functions, including those of the brain, blood sugar regulation, thyroid, muscle, immune system, bones, joints, cartilage, reproductive systems, mitochondria, and the master antioxidant system. Selenium joins with proteins to form selenoproteins and other enzymes and antioxidants, including glutathione.

Statins interfere with selenoprotein synthesis, leading to selenium deficiency and interfering with its function. Cellular studies have shown that cerivastatin suppresses production of selenoproteins and glutathione-related enzymes, increasing oxidative stress effects on cardiac and skeletal muscles.

Considerable controversy exists about whether statins affect vitamin D status. Convincing research demonstrates that adequate vitamin D levels from sunshine and supplementation are necessary to support muscles against statin side effects. However, studies are inconclusive whether statins deplete vitamin D.

Caution: "Informed Consent"

Due to the adverse effects of statins, the authors of the March 2015 Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology medical journal listed “informed consent” as a necessary key issue with use of statins. They recommended that “informed consent of statins should include increased coronary artery disease, heart failure, carcinogenicity, teratogenicity and central and peripheral nervous disorders besides the known adverse effects.”

“Carcinogenicity” refers to cancer promotion, while “teratogenicity” refers to the induction of malformations and birth defects in the preborn.

Some Statistics to Reflect On

According to John Hopkins University, more than 200 million people around the world take statin medications. Other statin statistics and comment from the January 2017 JAMA Cardiology publication show that statin use increased by 79% among the US adult population, rising from 17.9% to 27.8% from 2002-2003 to 2012-2013. A similar increase in statin use has been noted in other nationally representative studies from both developed and developing countries. Their conclusion from this increase was that there was “a modest success in improving statin uptake in the general population” but that “the trends in high-risk groups, such as those with ASCVD and diabetes, remain suboptimal.”

The push for statin drugs is ever-present and expanding to more age-groups. Whether you or a family member are on a statin drug or have been recommended one, you must be aware of the nutritional pitfalls and adverse effects that these medications can induce.

Stress, a pro-inflammatory Western diet of high fat, high sugar, nutrient poor foods, and environmental chemicals and toxins are damaging to cholesterol and cardiovascular health. However, it’s important to remember that healthy cholesterol levels (total, HDL, LDL, VLDL, triglycerides) are necessary for your entire body. Cholesterol repairs cell membranes, forms adrenal and sex steroid hormones, provides energy, and serves many other vital functions. Healthy cholesterol is good for you! You can change your diet and lifestyle and manage stress to support healthy cholesterol.

Nutrients and your nutritional status matter! Your body requires nutrients for hundreds of different mechanisms, yet they are depleted with statin use, with little to no discussion about their need! Are you taking precautions to optimize your status?

Learn more:

Taking Statins? Protect Your Muscles and Mitochondria

Statin Drugs Causes Atherosclerosis and Heart Failure

Cholesterol: Protect This Vital Compound

Saturated Fat Myth: Debunked Again

Health Clues and Tips for Your Heart and Weight: Part II

Coenzyme Q10: Cornerstone of Your Energy Supply Chain

Q10 Boosts Energy, Nerves, Muscles, & Metabolism

PQQ and Coenzyne Q10 – Powerful Nutrients for Your Health

Vitamin K Critical for Bones and Arterial Health

Vitamin K: It Helps More Than Just Bones

Selenium’s Vital Role in Thyroid Hormone Function

New Discoveries Highlight the Importance of Vitamin D

Vitamin D and Your Immune System – Are You Getting Enough?

Drug-Nutrient Depletions and Mitochondrial Toxicity with Common Heart Meds

Mitochondria – Drugs that Injure and What Mitochondria Injury Looks Like

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