Earlier this year, I published an article by Suzy Cohen, R.Ph., (widely recognized as "America's most trusted pharmacist") in which she discussed the hidden link between statins and diabetes.
A pattern has appeared where many who start taking a statin drug end up being diagnosed with diabetes several months later. Cohen's research into this hidden connection prompted her to write a book on the subject called "Diabetes Without Drugs." However, this diagnosis is incorrect. What many of these patients have is actually hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), caused by the medication. In essence, it is not genuine diabetes, and can be reversed simply by discontinuing the drug.
A recent meta-analysis confirmed that statin drugs are indeed associated with increased risk of developing diabetes.
The researchers evaluated five different clinical trials that together examined more than 32,000 people. They found that the higher the dosage of statin drugs being taken, the greater the diabetes risk. The "number needed to harm" for intensive-dose statin therapy was 498 for new-onset diabetes - that's the number of people who need to take the drug in order for one person to develop diabetes.
In even simpler terms, one out of every 498 people who are on a high-dose statin regimen will develop diabetes. (The lower the "number needed to harm," the greater the risk factor is.)
(As a side note, the "number needed to treat" per year for intensive-dose statins was 155 for cardiovascular events. This means that 155 people have to take the drug in order to prevent one person from having a cardiovascular event.) The following scientific reviews also reached the conclusion that statin use is associated with increased incidence of new-onset diabetes:
- A 2010 meta-analysis of 13 statin trials, consisting of 91,140 participants, found that statin therapy was associated with a 9 percent increased risk for incident diabetes. Here, the number needed to harm was 255 over four years, meaning for every 255 people on the drug, one developed diabetes as a result of the drug in that period of time.
- In this 2009 study, statin use was associated with a rise of fasting plasma glucose in patients with and without diabetes, independently of other factors such as age, and use of aspirin, β-blockers, or angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors. The study included data from more than 345,400 patients over a period of two years.
On average, statins increased fasting plasma glucose in non-diabetic statin users by 7 mg/dL, and in diabetics, statins increased glucose levels by 39 mg/dL.
How Do Statins Cause Diabetes?
Statins appear to provoke diabetes through a few different mechanisms. The primary mechanism is by increasing your insulin levels, which can be extremely harmful to your health. Chronically elevated insulin levels cause inflammation in your body, which is the hallmark of most chronic disease. In fact, elevated insulin levels lead to heart disease, which, ironically, is the primary reason for taking a statin drug in the first place!
It can also promote belly fat, high blood pressure, heart attacks, chronic fatigue, thyroid disruption, and diseases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and cancer.
Secondly, statins increase your diabetes risk by raising your blood sugar. When you eat a meal that contains starches and sugar, some of the excess sugar goes to your liver, which then stores it away as cholesterol and triglycerides. Statins work by preventing your liver from making cholesterol. As a result, your liver returns the sugar to your bloodstream, which raises your blood sugar levels.
These drugs also rob your body of certain valuable nutrients, which can also impact your blood sugar levels. Two nutrients in particular, vitamin D and CoQ10, are both needed to maintain ideal blood glucose levels.
If You Take Statins, You MUST Take CoQ10
It's extremely important to understand that taking a statin drug without also taking CoQ10 puts your health in serious jeopardy. Unfortunately, this describes the majority of people who take them in the United States.
CoQ10 is a cofactor (co-enzyme) that is essential for the creation of ATP molecules, primarily in your mitochondria, which you need for cellular energy production. Organs such as your heart have higher energy requirements, and therefore require more CoQ10 to function properly. Statins deplete your body of CoQ10, which can have devastating results.
As your body gets more and more depleted of CoQ10, you may suffer from fatigue, muscle weakness and soreness, and eventually heart failure. Interestingly, heart failure, not heart attacks, are now the leading cause of death due to cardiovascular diseases. Coenzyme Q10 is also very important in the process of neutralizing free radicals. So when your CoQ10 is depleted, you enter a vicious cycle of increased free radicals, loss of cellular energy, and damaged mitochondrial DNA.
How to Optimize Your Cholesterol Levels, Naturally
There's no doubt that statin drugs can wreak havoc with your health, and there's compelling evidence that most people who currently take them simply do not need them. The fact is that 75 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!
By modifying your diet and lifestyle in the following ways, you can safely modify your cholesterol:
- Reduce, with the plan of eliminating, grains and sugars in your diet, replacing them with mostly whole, fresh vegetable carbs. Also try to consume a good portion of your food raw.
- Make sure you are getting enough high quality, animal-based omega 3 fats, such as krill oil.
- Other heart-healthy foods 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.
- Avoid smoking or drinking alcohol excessively.
- Be sure to get plenty of good, restorative sleep.
Unlike statin drugs, which lower your cholesterol at the expense of your health, these lifestyle strategies represent a holistic approach that will benefit your overall health - which includes a healthy cardiovascular system.