What Happens When Your Cholesterol Goes Too Low?

People who take statin drugs to lower their cholesterol as much as possible may have a higher risk of cancer, according to a meta-analysis of over 41,000 patient records from 23 statin drug trials.

The analysis raises concerns about how low cholesterol levels should actually go. Researchers found one extra case of cancer per 1,000 patients with the lowest levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, the so-called “bad” cholesterol, compared to patients with higher LDL levels.

Past studies have found an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease among people with extra-low cholesterol. Meanwhile, statin drugs may cause damage to the liver and muscles.

The analysis included records from patients taking statins such as Lipitor and Zocor, but did not include newer statins such as Crestor and Vytorin.

Statins, the world’s top-selling drugs, are thought to have a beneficial effect on inflammation in the body, and lowering the risk of heart attack and stroke. They may also decrease the risk of death from influenza, pneumonia and smoking.

Journal of the American College of Cardiology July 31, 2007; 50:409-418

Reuters July 24, 2007

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

This is a topic near and dear to my heart, as my cholesterol has been as low as 75 when I was a naive young doctor and felt that your cholesterol could not be too low.

While many people worry that their cholesterol is too high, few give a thought to the damage that can result if your cholesterol is too low. When it comes to cholesterol, lower is not always better.

I speak from personal experience on this, because, as many of you know, I have struggled with low cholesterol for much of my life. Cholesterol is not the villain it has been made out to be. Quite to the contrary, cholesterol:

  • Acts as your body’s repair substance
  • Helps you to digest fats
  • Is the precursor to vitamin D
  • Is necessary for hormone production
  • Functions as a powerful antioxidant

If your cholesterol dips too low, you will increase your risk of depression, stroke, violent behavior, and suicide.

Despite this, in 2004 the U.S. government's National Cholesterol Education Program panel advised those at risk for heart disease to attempt to reduce their LDL cholesterol to specific, very low, levels.

Prior to this, a 130-milligram LDL cholesterol level was considered healthy. The updated guidelines, however, recommended levels of less than 100, or even less than 70, for patients at very high risk.

Their recommendations for obtaining these incredibly low LDL levels? Taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs … sometimes up to two or three varieties.

There is no evidence to support that such low cholesterol levels are beneficial, and increasing numbers of studies like the one above are pointing to the risks.

Meanwhile, even if you DID want to lower your cholesterol, taking statin drugs is the last option you should consider. Cholesterol-lowering drugs have been linked to everything from nerve damage to memory loss, and, because they deplete the body of beneficial Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), may actually INCREASE the risk of heart disease.

There’s no need to risk dangerous statin side effects to keep your cholesterol levels where they should be. All you need to do is follow these steps:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Normalize your insulin levels by eliminating grains and sugars from your diet
  • Take a high-quality source of omega-3 fats, like krill oil
Additionally, if you are a man, or if you are a woman in menopause, you should get your iron level checked. Elevated iron levels can raise cholesterol and cause serious damage to your heart and other organs.

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