How Statin Drugs Wreck Your Muscles

cholesterol, hdl, ldl, statins, statin drugs, cholesterol lowering drugs, dangerous drugs, Lipitor, Zocor, Pavacol, HMG-CoA reductase, atrogin-1, statin-related muscle damageStatins, a popular set of drugs used to lower cholesterol, can result in muscle weakness and pain, and even debilitating and life-threatening muscle damage. A new study offers the first evidence that a gene known as atrogin-1 plays a key role in statin-related muscle toxicity.

Statins such as Lipitor, Zocor, Pavacol and Mevacor lower cholesterol by inhibiting HMG-CoA reductase, a key enzyme in cholesterol synthesis. But they may also activate the gene atrogin-1 gene, which plays a key role in muscle atrophy.

Three separate tests showed that even at low concentrations, statin drugs led to atrogin-1 induced muscle damage. As the concentration was increased, the damage increased as well.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Statins, which are a class of drugs used to lower your cholesterol, are among the most commonly prescribed medications in the world, and I believe, one of the most unnecessary drugs there is.

With at least 12 million Americans taking statins, and experts' recommendations that another 23 million "should" be taking them, it's important to remain educated on this issue. Especially since statin drugs are linked to many, many dangerous side effects.

Are the Benefits Worth the Risks?

There are several different statin drugs currently available on the U.S. market. If you, or anyone you love takes any of these drugs, I highly recommend you review their prescribing information by clicking on the drug brand below. These "package inserts" will also tell you some (but surely not all) of the most common side effects associated with them.

Statins have been known to cause muscle weakness and pain, but no one knew exactly why. This latest study sheds some valuable information on the subject and adds to your arsenal when discussing whether or not you really need to be taking a statin drug with your doctor.

There are a small group of people with genetic enzyme defects that have cholesterols levels above 325-350. These are about the only individuals in my experience, who seem to benefit from statins. In my clinical experience over more than two decades and thousands of patients, there have been a grand total of three patients that required statins to control this genetic problem.

One thing is for sure. You should NOT ignore these symptoms, as they can deteriorate into even more dangerous conditions, including death. For example, Bayer's statin, Baycol, was pulled from the market in 2001 after 31 people died from rhabdomyolysis, a condition in which muscle tissue breaks down resulting in kidney failure.

Other serious and potentially life threatening side effects include, but are not limited to:

Why Statins are One of the Most Unnecessary Drugs in Medicine

Statin drugs work by preventing the formation of cholesterol, and reduce LDL cholesterol, which is considered the "bad" cholesterol.

There is no argument that these drugs do work very well at lowering your cholesterol levels. However, they in no way, shape or form, treat the cause of your problem. They are nothing more than a potentially toxic band-aid.

So just what is the problem with statins, and why don't you need them to manage your cholesterol levels?

Well, first of all, you need to understand that there is no such thing as "good" or "bad" cholesterol. Both HDL and LDL cholesterol perform vital functions in your body, which is why it's actually dangerous to bring your LDL levels down too low

HDL (high density lipoprotein) and LDL (low density lipoprotein) are actually proteins that transport the cholesterol to and from your tissues. Cholesterol in turn is a precursor to steroid hormones. For example, you can't make testosterone or estrogen, cortisol, DHEA or pregnenolone, or a multitude of other steroid hormones that are necessary for health, without cholesterol. Even more importantly, you can't make new cell membranes without cholesterol.  

So, the major reasons your body makes cholesterol in the first place, and why you have LDL, is to take the cholesterol to the tissue so you can make new cells or repair old damaged ones.  

However, there are different sizes of LDL particles and it's the LDL particle size that is relevant. Unfortunately, most people don't hear about that part, and very rarely, if ever, get it tested. Naturally, the drug companies really don't want you to know that part of the science, because it would severely limit the number of people going on cholesterol-lowering drugs, since statins do not modulate the size of the particles.  

The only way to make sure your LDL particles are large enough to not get stuck and cause inflammation and damage is through diet. In fact, it's one of the major things that insulin does. If you eat properly, which is really the only known good way to regulate LDL particle size, then it does the right thing; it takes the cholesterol to your tissues, the HDL takes it back to your liver, and nothing gets stuck causing damage.

The second thing you need to know is that statins work by reducing the enzyme that causes your liver to make cholesterol when it is stimulated by high insulin levels. Again, you can achieve the same, or better, result by simply reducing your insulin levels by eliminating sugar and most grains.

Additionally, statins are non-specific inhibitors of not just one, but a number of very important liver enzymes. For example, not only do they block HMG coenzyme A reductase, they also block Coenzyme Q10.

CoQ10 is a vital enzyme that your body needs for energy and cardiovascular health. It is widely recommended to repair heart damage, boost the function of the heart and acts as a protectant against heart attacks and valve damage. Additionally, CoQ10 has been shown to be beneficial in heart and lung cancer, as well as maintain cognitive function. Thus, when you take statins your production of this enzyme is dramatically depleted and you do not reap the health benefits associated with it.

What's the Best Way to Normalize Your Cholesterol?

Just about every person, other than the tiny minority with the genetic enzyme defects mentioned above, can normalize their cholesterol levels with the Total Health Program, which includes modifying your eating habits based on your body's unique nutritional type.

If you truly want to normalize your cholesterol levels, following these simple lifestyle changes can get you there:


The pen is mightier than the sword, it's said, and one of my goals is to send out the message that statin drugs are clearly not the weapon of choice for high cholesterol. I urge you to share this information as well, by forwarding this article to your friends and family.