By Jan de Vries, originally published Autumn 2004
There has been a long-established connection between high cholesterol and the biggest cause of death in the UK; premature heart disease. This stimulated a great deal of research interest from the various drug companies who were keen to discover a product to effectively lower cholesterol. Out of this research came the drug family known as statins with the best known one, simvastatin, now celebrating its 15 years of use.
The statin drugs work simply by blocking the chemical pathway responsible for cholesterol production in the body. It is not uncommon for people to have high cholesterol levels despite living on a low fat diet. Dietary fat does contribute to your cholesterol level but the bulk of the circulating cholesterol is generated within the liver. If your body is genetically programmed to make large amounts of cholesterol, diet adjustment is important but may not be enough to lower it to safe levels. The statin drugs, therefore, appeared to be the golden key to heart health. They lowered cholesterol at the very source of its production – within the liver.
However, there is no such thing as a free lunch and statins do have some side effects. Some of these are felt physically as unexplained muscular aches and pains and others may take many years to develop. It is the long-term use of statins and their potential long-term side effects that are worrying. Some experts are suggesting that the drug can damage the very organ they are designed to help, the heart muscle, while others indicate that the liver may also suffer from long-term statin therapy.
Interestingly enough, statins are known to deplete the body’s reserves of a key heart nutrient known as Co-enzyme Q10 and a growing number of American Cardiologists are now prescribing Co-Q10 along-side their prescriptions for statins to help offset this depletion effect. The worry is simple: Co-Q10 lies at the heart of the energy regulation process that controls heart muscle function and contraction. Deplete this and the heart suffers. Replacing the Co-Q10 is easy enough by taking a high-quality supplement. In general 60 – 120 mg per day would be adequate.
As time passes we may see Co-Q10 being incorporated into the statin preparations because the drug industry is fully aware of this depletion effect but until then it may be a good idea to take the initiative yourself and dose up!
From the Jan de Vries archives
I hope this article has been helpful in explaining why Co-enzyme Q10 supplements are so important for people taking statins. I find it so fascinating that Jan de Vries was talking about this subject over 10 years ago – he really was ahead of his time! Two of the Co-Q10 products we always recommend in store are Lambert's 100mg Co-Enzyme Q10 and Quest’s Ubiquinol, which is a highly bioavailable form of Co-Enzyme Q10, so may be beneficial to the elderly. Browse some more of our most popular products below.