Is Your Statin Causing Diabetes, Memory Loss, Muscle Pain, and Low Energy?

Author: Dr. Drew Christensen

We live in a world that is focused on treating symptoms and risk factors, and cholesterol is no exception.  It is standard practice to check cholesterol levels and treat elevated cholesterol with statin medication.  We are sometimes left feeling like heart disease is due to a statin deficiency.

For some, treatment of elevated cholesterol with statins has led to diabetes, memory loss and other problems.  Studies done in the last 2 years report an increased risk of developing diabetes in those taking statins.  (1,2)

Those treated with statins are generally placed on statins to help reduce their risk of heart disease.  These reviews demonstrate increased risk of developing diabetes when taking a statin medicine.  Diabetes is a major risk factor for developing heart disease.  Thus, to help prevent heart disease, patients are placed on statins which increases their risk for diabetes which in turn increases the risk of heart disease.  Does this make sense?

Clearly, patients with no cardiovascular disease and low risk for heart disease should think twice before starting statin therapy.

In addition to diabetes, the FDA has warned that statin therapy can lead to liver injury, memory loss, and muscle damage.  Other possible adverse effects include neuropathy, pancreatic and hepatic dysfunction, decrease in CoQ10 levels and sexual dysfunction.(3)

Statins Cause CoQ10 Loss

CoQ10 is depleted by statins.  CoQ10 is a vital substance in the energy production of your body.  Without CoQ10 your heart, brain, and muscles are unable to produce the energy they need.  There are some studies that suggest that supplementation with CoQ10 may help in the treatment of statin adverse effects. (4, 5)

Although cholesterol has been portrayed to be the bad guy in cardiovascular disease, it is important to remember that cholesterol is crucial to our health and vitality.  It is a major structural component of cell membrane throughout the body.  Without cholesterol we would not produce sex hormones, bile acids, or vitamin D.  If cholesterol levels become to low, all of these vital functions will become impaired.

Cardiovascular disease is not a statin deficiency.  It is a disease of inflammation, oxidative stress, and immune disfunction.  These issues can be addressed mainly through dietary and lifestyle change. (6)

Functional Medicine Offers a Different Approach

With your functional medicine physician, you can become empowered by discovering  the dysfunction that may be putting you at risk for heart disease.  This involves looking at your genetics, your past exposures, your diet, your body composition, your environment, your physiology, your lifestyle and how they all interact.  This is the process that will lead to your wellness.

1.    Culver AL, et al. Statin use and risk of diabetes mellitus in postmenopausal women in the Women’s Health Initiative. Arch Intern Med. 2012 Jan 23;172(2):144-52.

2. Preiss D, et al.  JAMA. 2011 Jun 22;305(24):2556-64. doi: 10.1001/jama.2011.860.
Risk of incident diabetes with intensive-dose compared with moderate-dose statin therapy: a meta-analysis.

3. Golomb BA, Evans MA. Statin adverse effects : a review of the literature and evidence for a mitochondrial mechanism.  American Journal of Cardiovascular Drugs. 2008;8(6):373-418.

4. Caso G, Kelly P, McNurlan MA, Lawson WE. Effect of coenzyme q10 on myopathic symptoms in patients treated with statins. Am J Cardiol. 2007;99:1409–12.

5. Langsjoen PH, Langsjoen JO, Langsjoen AM, Lucas LA. Treatment of statin adverse effects with supplemental Coenzyme Q10 and statin drug discontinuation. Biofactors. 2005;25:147–52.

6. Mark C. Houston.  What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Heart Disease. Grand Central Life & Style Hachette Book Group. First edition: February, 2012.