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Coronary heart disease is the most common cause of death in the US. But the reasons for this, along with effective solutions, have been hotly debated for decades. At the heart of the controversy is a frightening question: Do statins kill or cure?

A recent Japanese study has found that statins stimulate artherosclerosis and can cause heart failure. As a result the researchers from Nagoya City University and the Institute for Consumer Science and Human Life at Kinjo Gakuin University have proposed that the current guidelines for statin treatment be “critically re-evaluated.”

Since statins were first introduced in the 1990s, the most commonly propounded theory is that they decrease cholesterol and therefore also decrease atherosclerosis. But the Japanese researchers set out to prove that statins can cause calcification in the coronary arteries and can also inhibit the synthesis of vitamin K2 which is “the cofactor for matrix Gla-protein activation,” a vital key in the chain to protecting the arteries from the calcification that kills so many people. 

They found that statins are capable of functioning as “mitochondrial toxins” that have the effect of impairing muscle function in blood vessels and in the heart. 

This occurs as a result of the depletion of coenzyme Q10 (see below) and heme A (a biomolecule that is produced naturally, and which is essential for respiration), and thereby the generation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). 

The Importance of Coenzyme Q10

Coenzyme Q10 is known to be a vital factor when it comes to mitochondrial respiration. It also has important antioxidant properties. When there are deficiencies of this coenzyme, various myopathic and neurologic syndromes may occur. A study undertaken by medical doctors at the Ochsner Clinic Foundation in New Orleans, Louisiana in 2010 identified “statin-induced mitochondrial dysfunction” caused by a lack of coenzyme Q10. Specifically, they found that statins “interfere with” production of mevalonic acid, a precursor in the synthesis of coenzyme Q10. In their report published in The Oschsner Journal, they state that statin medications “routinely” result in lower coenzyme Q10 in “the serum,” and sometimes in muscle tissue as well.

In the Japanese study paper published online in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) US National Library of Medicine in March 2015, H. Okuyama et al state that statins impede muscle function in blood and heart vessels because coenzyme Q10, heme A and ATP generation are depleted. Additionally, they say statins tend to prevent proteins that contain selenium from being biosynthesized.

The Importance of Selenium

Selenium occurs in proteins in the form of selenocysteine, an amino acid that is essential for human health. A number of biochemical and nutritional studies have implicated it in numerous biological processes including immunological function. Some selenoproteins have been found to play a “chemopreventive role” in cancer of the prostate, colon and lungs. So if it cannot be biosynthesized for some reason, this could impact negatively on our health.   

The Japanese study concluded that impaired selenoprotein biosynthesis might be a factor leading to congestive heart failure, stating that the effects were similar to the “dilated cardiomyopathies” identified in cases of selenium deficiency.

“Thus, the epidemic of heart failure and atherosclerosis that plagues the modern world may paradoxically be aggravated by the pervasive use of statin drugs.”

The Ugly Side of Statins

While there seems to be more positive information about statins than negative data, when cardio-vascular specialists berate the benefits of statins, it is surely time to take note, if not action.

For instance, in 2013, two doctors, Sherif Sultan and Niamh Hynes published a paper in the Open Journal of Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases titled The Ugly Side of Statins. Systemic Appraisal of the Contemporary Un-Known Unknowns. Sultan is a senior medic and Hynes a surgeon from the University College Hospital Galway and Galway Clinic’s Departments of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery in Galway, Ireland. They cite 39 published research reports dating from 2002 to 2012, one of which is their own. Their findings are alarming.

Warning that “naïve indiscriminate acceptance of novel mainstream therapies” was not always advisable they state that statins might be “causing more damage than good.”

Sultan and Hynes examined research reports and the results of more than 55 trials on statin therapy and found there had been no significant reduction in the risk factors (mainly cholesterol and blood pressure) relating to coronary heart disease (CHD). While they found that in some cases statins might improve a sick patient’s quality of life, they identified a number of major adverse effects that they said had been “under-reported.”  Worse still, the way in which these negative effects had been withheld and even concealed from the public was, they said, “a scientific farce.”

Sultan and Hynes found that all side effects of statins were dose dependent and persisted throughout treatment. Those being treated with statins faced some alarming risks, they said. These include:

  • Diabetes mellitus, erectile dysfunction, and the formation of cataract in young patients.
  • Cancer and neurodegenerative disorders as well as a myriad of infectious diseases in elderly patients.
  • Cardiovascular problems in women, young patients, and those suffering from diabetes mellitus.

Additionally, statins were associated with three times the risk of aortic and coronary artery calcification.

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