The potential dangers of statin medications are back in the news as a new study published in the Journal of Diabetes has revealed a clear association between statin use and peripheral neuropathy in those 40 years of age and older. This latest study follows closely on the FDA’s decision earlier this year to require statin drug manufacturers to add "memory loss" as a potential side effect of this lipid-modulating medication family.
Case reports of statin-induced peripheral neuropathy have been acknowledged for quite some time now but recently larger studies have been confirming this not-so-rare and exceptional side effect. Of particular interest and certainly something the clinician should be aware of is that some of the nerve damage being experienced by users of the drugs is below observational and or experiential levels. In other words, nerve damage could very well be occurring without either the patient or clinician being aware of it.
Looking into the “cholesterol myth”
With the increased concern of severe adverse reactions and the understanding of the necessary and important role that cholesterol plays in human physiology, we perhaps may have to re-evaluate the risk to benefit ratio of using this class of drugs. This naturally leads to the discussion of the “cholesterol myth” and its true relevance as a primary cardiovascular disease risk. For example C-reactive protein, a marker of systemic inflammation, has been shown to be a more valid indicator of cardiovascular health and subsequent mortality. Another study states that, “Apolipoprotein B (apoB) and apolipoprotein A-I (apoA-I) are thought to be better predictors of acute myocardial infarction than total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol.”
Possibly most concerning of all is the title of a study from the University of Ontario that states, “The mainstream hypothesis that LDL cholesterol drives atherosclerosis may have been falsified by non-invasive imaging of coronary artery plaque burden and progression.”
In light of the above, it may not be surprising that many studies have elaborated on lower levels of cholesterol being associated with increased mortality, while a recent Norwegian study recommends a re-evaluation of cholesterols role as a risk factor in cardiovascular disease, even concluding, “This is especially true for women, for whom moderately elevated cholesterol (by current standards) may prove to be not only harmless but even beneficial.”
Additionally, many studies have demonstrated a connection between low cholesterol levels and various forms of violence and states of mental imbalance and ill-health.
Another interesting study concluded that higher serum levels of cholesterol were associated with lower occurrence and or progression of Parkinson’s disease.
Past blogs have discussed the relevance of telomere length and longevity. In the following study, telomere length was positively associated with LDL and cholesterol levels.
While the paradigm of high levels of LDL cholesterol being a risk factor for cardiovascular disease has been well entrenched in the medical community for quite some time, it is understandable that a reconsideration and re-evaluation of its role in human health may be anathema to most present day cardiologists and clinicians. There is little doubt however of the potential health risks involved in using statin drugs long-term.
The next blog will provide an over view of substances and compounds that have been shown to be clinically efficacious in modulating blood lipids while minimizing adverse reactions and at the same time, improving all around human health.