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Statins Increase Your Risk of Foodborne Illness

cholesterol lowering pillsThe U.S. government claims that it is trying to address the problem of foodborne illnesses. So why is it recommending drugs that may actually put its citizens at greater risk from food poisoning?

Cholesterol drugs make you more vulnerable to bacterial infections such as e. coli and salmonella -- a recent study shows that the statin drug simvastatin (sold under the names Zocor and Simvacor), which the government advocates as a means of lowering cholesterol levels, actually weakens your immune system.

According to the Alliance for Natural Health:

"... [T]he drug ... hinders the ability of the body's immune cells to kill pathogens, and increases the production of cytokines, which trigger and sustain inflammation."

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Statin drugs used to lower cholesterol are the world's most-prescribed class of medications. In the United States alone, about 24 million Americans take the drugs, which include namebrands like Pravachol, Mevacor, Lipitor, Zocor and Crestor.

This amounts to 24 million Americans who are putting themselves at increased risk of falling ill to a foodborne illness, as the drugs are disastrous for your immune system.

If you are healthy your immune system should be able to fight off salmonella, e. coli and other bugs in your food relatively easily. But if your immune system is compromised, these pathogenic bacteria can quickly become deadly.

What Happens to Your Immune System When You Take Statins?

Scientists from Italy uncovered that the statin drug simvastatin (sold as Zocor and Simvacor) causes two very concerning changes in your immune system. It:

  • Impairs the ability of your macrophages, which are specialized immune cells, to kill dangerous pathogens.
  • Enhances the production of cytokines, which are molecules that trigger and sustain inflammation.

Since a strong immune system is your best defense against any pathogenic bacteria you come across, taking statin drugs is a risky proposition at best -- and this is not the first time a study has found immune-damaging effects from statin drugs.

Research from Switzerland revealed that Lipitor, Mevacor and Pravachol suppress immune system cells known as helper T-cells. These cells act by recognizing foreign pathogens and then activating the production of the proper T cells and B cells in response.

Having your helper T-cells suppressed may not sound too daunting in print, but in reality it is very serious. There is actually a disease that does this very same thing: AIDS.

So the new research strongly suggests that if you are on statin drugs, this impairment in your immune system will make it far more likely that you will have a serious infection when you eat contaminated food. 

More Than 900 Studies Show Statin Drugs are Dangerous

This latest finding about immune system suppression is only one of hundreds pointing to the very real risks of statin drugs. There are over 900 in all.

For starters, reported side effects include:

  • Muscle problems, polyneuropathy (nerve damage in the hands and feet), and rhabdomyolysis (a serious degenerative muscle tissue condition)
  • Anemia
  • Acidosis
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Pancreas or liver dysfunction, including a potential increase in liver enzymes
  • Cataracts

Muscle problems are the best known of statin drugs' adverse side effects, but cognitive problems and memory loss are also widely reported. A spectrum of other problems, ranging from blood glucose elevations to tendon problems, can also occur. There is evidence that taking statins may even increase your risk for Lou Gehrig's disease.

Statins also lower your CoQ10 levels by blocking the pathway involved in cholesterol production – the same pathway by which Q10 is produced. Statins also reduce the blood cholesterol that transports CoQ10 and other fat-soluble antioxidants.

The loss of CoQ10 leads to loss of cell energy and increased free radicals which, in turn, can further damage your mitochondrial DNA, effectively setting into motion an evil circle of increasing free radicals and mitochondrial damage.

Unfortunately, there are no "official" warnings in the U.S. regarding CoQ10 depletion from taking statin drugs, and many physicians fail to inform you about this problem as well.

As your body gets more and more depleted of CoQ10, you may suffer from fatigue, muscle weakness and soreness, and eventually heart failure, so it is imperative if you take statin drugs that you take CoQ10 or, if you are over the age of 40, the reduced version called ubiquinol.

Confusing matters, however, is the fact that statin drugs oftentimes do not have any immediate side effects, and they are quite effective, capable of lowering cholesterol levels by 50 points or more.

This makes it appear as though they're benefiting your health, and health problems that appear down the line are frequently not interpreted as a side effect of the drug, but rather as brand new, separate health problems.

Statin Drugs May Actually Be Necessary for Some

A few days ago I lectured at David Wolfe's Longevity Now Conference in Costa Mesa and I had an opportunity to listen to Dr. Steven Sinatra's lecture. He is probably one of the best, if not the best, natural cardiologists in the world. During his presentation he mentioned that statins do actually work to decrease heart attacks for some people.

This surprised me as there is no doubt in my mind that he is correct. What surprised me even more was that the mechanism of action has nothing at all to do with lowering cholesterol, but rather in making your blood less sticky and prone to clotting. Additionally, it may reduce inflammation somewhat.

So Dr. Sinatra actually prescribes them for certain individuals who are at very high risk of dying from a heart attack, but he does it based on risk factors NOT on cholesterol levels. It is important to note that it is not necessary for these patients to remain on the drug for the rest of their life, often they can safely go off them after a course of treatment.

I am grateful to Dr. Sinatra for his valuable information on statin drugs.  Indeed they are appropriate for some individuals who are at a very high risk for dying from a heart attack.  This will provide an opportunity for the natural interventions discussed below to take effect and they can then go off the statins.

How do you know it is time to go off of them?

Well it is the same cardiovascular risk factors that I have mentioned for a long time. The cholesterol/HDL ratio and triglyceride/HDL ratio.  An optimal number is around 200. It turns out that the reason HDL may be such a potent risk factor for heart disease has nothing at all to do with directly preventing deposits of cholesterol on your arteries.

Rather it may help to keep your blood thin and prevent blood clots that would shut off your arterial circulation. If that blood clot occurred in one or more of the arteries that supply your heart or brain you would have a heart attack or stroke (brain attack).

Lowering Your Cholesterol Too Much May Also Make You More Vulnerable to Infection  

If you're taking statin drugs, and thereby suppressing your immune system and increasing your risk of foodborne and other types of infection, you'd better be certain your cholesterol really was too high in the first place.

What is too high?

Your total cholesterol tells you virtually nothing about your risk of heart disease unless it is 330 or higher.

The ONLY subgroup that might benefit are those born with a genetic defect called familial hypercholesterolemia, as this makes them resistant to traditional measures of normalizing cholesterol.

For those of you worrying about cholesterol levels around 200, or taking drugs to lower them, let me tell you that an optimal level is around 200, and numbers much under 150 are likely far too low.

In fact, one study even found that people with the lowest cholesterol levels have the greatest risk of contracting an infectious disease. This is because every single one of your cells needs cholesterol to thrive, and low cholesterol levels are quite dangerous to your health on multiple levels.

One meta-analysis of over 41,000 patient records found that people who take statin drugs to lower their cholesterol as much as possible may have a higher risk of cancer, while other studies have linked low cholesterol to Parkinson's disease, memory loss, hormonal imbalances, stroke, depression, suicide and violent behavior.

So if you take a drug to lower your cholesterol to artificially low levels, you're often increasing your risk of a number of serious diseases in return. 

You should repeat your blood work after six or eight weeks on the drug, or sooner if you've made some aggressive lifestyle improvements with diet and exercise.

Tips for Optimizing Your Cholesterol Without Drugs

Your body NEEDS cholesterol -- it is important in the production of cell membranes, hormones, vitamin D and bile acids that help you to digest fat. Cholesterol also helps your brain form memories and is vital to your neurological function.

So the goal of the tips below is not to necessarily lower your cholesterol as low as it can go; the goal is to optimize your levels so they're working in the proper balance with your body.

Seventy-five percent of your cholesterol is produced by your liver, which is influenced by your insulin levels. Therefore, if you optimize your insulin level, you will automatically optimize your cholesterol.

This is why my primary recommendations for safely regulating your cholesterol have to do with modifying your diet and lifestyle as follows:

  • Reduce, with the plan of eliminating, grains and sugars in your diet. It is especially important to eliminate dangerous sugars such as fructose. 

If your HDL/Cholesterol ratio is abnormal and needs to be improved it would also serve you well to virtually eliminate fruits from your diet, as that is also a source of fructose. Once your cholesterol improves you can gradually reintroduce fruits at levels that don't raise your cholesterol.

  • Consume a good portion of your food raw. 
  • Make sure you are getting plenty of high quality, animal-based omega 3 fats, such as krill oil. New research suggests that as little as 500 mg of krill per day may lower your total cholesterol and triglycerides and will likely increase your HDL cholesterol.
  • Eat the right foods for your nutritional type.

Examples of heart-healthy foods and fats include olive oil, coconut and coconut oil, organic raw dairy products and eggs, avocados, raw nuts and seeds, and organic grass-fed meats as appropriate for your nutritional type.

  • Exercise daily. Make sure you incorporate Peak Fitness exercises, which also optimize your human growth hormone (HGH) production. When you exercise you increase your circulation and the blood flow throughout your body.

The components of your immune system are also better circulated, which means your immune system has a better chance of fighting an illness before it has the opportunity to spread.

  • Avoid smoking or drinking alcohol excessively.
  • Be sure to get plenty of high-quality, restorative sleep.

If someone you love is currently taking cholesterol-lowering drugs, I urge you to share this information with them as well, and take advantage of the thousands of free pages of information on this site.

There's no reason to risk your health, including increasing your risk of foodborne illness, to optimize your cholesterol. You can do that naturally, and virtually for free, by making the healthy lifestyle changes I've listed above.