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Statin user?

You may want to consider taking a Q10 supplement

Statin user? You may want to consider taking a Q10 supplementStatins do more than lower your cholesterol. They have an array of side effects but you can effectively counteract them by taking coenzyme Q10 together with your drug.

Has your physician told you to take cholesterol-lowering statins? Well, it has to be said that these drugs are highly effective for lowering cholesterol. What you may not know, however, is that statins also lower levels of coenzyme Q10, a vital substance which all your cells need to produce energy. Coenzyme Q10 and cholesterol are synthesized in the liver and share the same biochemical pathway, and statins work by blocking this pathway. When levels of coenzyme Q10 go down, you risk a number of side effects that occur when the body's cells suddenly produce too little energy to function normally.

50% reduction of Q10 levels

Studies show that statins can halve your circulating blood levels of coenzyme Q10 within a few weeks after starting your statin therapy. Do you know how that may affect you? Well, muscle aches is a common problem that occurs in 5-10 percent of statin users. In some cases, patients develop a rare condition known as rhabdomyolysis where muscle tissue is broken down. This condition can be rather serious and lead to heart failure and kidney problems, provided it is not diagnosed and the statin therapy stopped.

Muscle cells are highly dependent

Virtually all our cells depend on coenzyme Q10, some more than others. Coenzyme Q10 involved in the energy turnover that takes place inside some minute cellular "powerhouses" called mitochondria and involves a biochemical conversion of nutrients where oxygen also contributes to the process. To stick with the extremes, red blood cells (as the only cells in the body) do not have any mitochondria and do not need coenzyme Q10, as the oxygen they carry would be consumed in the energy turnover. Muscle cells, on the other hand, are greatly dependent on coenzyme Q10 because they have to produce massive amounts of energy. Therefore, when statins lower coenzyme Q10 levels, it causes muscle cells to malfunction.

Q10 supplements help

Can this problem be prevented? Yes, research has shown that when people in statin therapy take supplements of coenzyme Q10 with their statin drugs it helps reduce problems like muscle aches. A US study that was published in 2007 showed that 100 mg of coenzyme Q10 daily taken in conjunction with statins reduced muscle pain by around 40%.

Just for the record, muscle aches are not the only problem that occurs in the wake of statin use. What is much worse is if the coenzyme Q10 deficiency causes vital muscles like the heart to malfunction, rendering the heart unable to pump sufficient amounts of blood to all parts of the body or, in worse cases, leading to heart pump failure.

It is worth making a note of the somewhat ironic fact that one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the United States took out a patent on statin-coenzyme Q10 drug combination way back in the 1990s.

Some of the other problems that have been observed with statin use include:

  • Type-2 diabetes

For instance, a British study of over two million people has demonstrated that people who take statins are at increased risk of developing type-2 diabetes. Their diabetes risk increased by an alarming 57% over a five-year period. This, the scientists speculate, may be a result of the insulin-producing pancreas cells not being able to function properly due to the coenzyme Q10 deficiency. Alternatively, it may be the inability of muscle and fat cells to respond normally to insulin (insulin resistance).

  • Impaired memory

Taking statins may impair a person's ability to think straight, according to studies. An American study of more than 480,000 statin users plus a similar amount of non-users has demonstrated that statin users are four times more likely to suffer acute memory loss, compared with non-users. Brain cells contain a large number of mitochondria and are therefore highly dependent on coenzyme Q10.

Contradicting study results

There is no doubt that the statin-induced reduction of coenzyme Q10 levels can affect us in a variety of ways. It is therefore tempting to think that all studies testing supplements of coenzyme Q10 as a countermeasure are bound to show a beneficial effect of the intervention. This is not the case. For instance, some studies show a positive effect of coenzyme Q10 on statin-induced muscle pain, whereas others have not been able to produce similar outcome.

So why is it that some studies show an effect, while other don't? A very important aspect here is the bio-availability of coenzyme Q10. The body has difficult with absorbing coenzyme Q10 in the first place, which means a supplement must be manufactured in such a way that it is easily absorbed in the digestive system. Only few of the Q10 brands on the market can document good bio-availability. In recent years, two groundbreaking studies of coenzyme Q10 and heart health have been published in esteemed science journals. One is the Q-Symbio study, the other is known as KiSel-10. Both studies were carried out using the same Q10 supplement, a brand that was chosen exclusively because of its documented bio-availability.

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