Many of us are familiar with statin drugs, such as Crestor and Lipitor, as the first-line prescription for poorly managed cholesterol levels. Moreover, it has been known for quite some time now that statin drugs deplete our bodies of a key antioxidant called Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10, for short). CoQ10 is extremely important for heart health by providing energy to the muscle cells of the heart, while also playing a role in cognitive function, mitochondrial health and many other physiological functions.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, there is new evidence to suggest that other important heart health nutrients may be depleted or negatively impacted by statins, too. Let’s first start with Vitamin D.
For those that are biochemically saavy, you will recall that vitamin D is actually made in the body from cholesterol. Can you already see where this is going? Statins deplete cholesterol and vitamin D is made from cholesterol. With basic logic, we can infer that statins can negatively impact the bodies’ ability to synthesize vitamin D. When we couple this idea with the fact that the vast majority of Canadians are already deficient in vitamin D, we run into problems.
A recent study of 74 women and 72 men found that supplementation with vitamin D could offset the very common statin side effects of muscle pain and muscle soreness. In fact, 88-95% of patients that originally had to stop their statin drugs because of these side effects were able to resume statin therapy without the undesirable muscle pains once their vitamin D levels were normalized.
A separate study discovered that statins might also interfere with the synthesis of vitamin K2, a nutrient that is extremely important in protecting the blood vessels from calcification. Essentially, vitamin K2 is responsible for driving calcium to the bones and away from the cardiovascular system. A deficiency in vitamin K2 can actually promote arterial calcification and stiffening of your blood vessels! So, given this brand new information that statins may deplete your body of vitamin K2, this is yet another major concern for those regularly taking statins.
If you’ve been counting, yes, that’s three essential nutrients that are depleted by statins – ironically all of which help to reduce heart disease in their own right!
The take home message from this post is not necessarily to stop taking your statin drug. Rather, if you do decide to use statin therapy, be sure to consider its implications for nutrient depletions. In particular, it would be worth supplementing with CoQ10, vitamin D and vitamin K2. Speak with your integrative healthcare practitioner to safely and effectively integrate these nutrients into your medication regimen.
Khaynikov M et al. Intolerance because of myalgia, myositis, myopathy, or myonecrosis can in most cases be safely resolved by vitamin d supplementation. North Am J Med Sci 2015; 7:86-93
Okuyama H, Langsjoen PH, Hamazaki T, Ogushi Y, Hama R, Kobayashi T, Uchino.
Statins stimulate atherosclerosis and heart failure: pharmacological mechanisms. H.Expert Rev Clin Pharmacol. 2015 Mar; 8(2):189-99.