Statin drugs reduce cholesterol by inhibiting the an enzyme in the liver (HMG-CoA reductase) which plays a role in the production of cholesterol in the liver. Unfortunately, this enzyme also plays a part in the production of a substance known as Coenzyme Q10, which itself is important for energy production within the body’s cells. Statins therefore have the ability to drain the life out of people. Any doctor who sees patients and actually listens to them will know this from experience, and now someone’s actually gone and shown it with a scientific study .
The study was published on-line in the Archives of Internal Medicine. A group of individuals were randomised to take one of two statins (simvastatin at 20 mg per day or pravastatin at 40 mg per day) or placebo for six months. Participants were rated at regular intervals through the study for their perceived fatigue on exertion, general fatigue and energy levels.
One thing worth highlighting here is that the study was only 6 months in duration. This is relevant because it’s not uncommon for the adverse side-effects of statins to come on many months or even years after the treatment is started.
Overall, statins did indeed appear to cause a significant change in energy and worsen fatigue on exertion. Women were more affected than men.
Four out of 10 women reported either reduction in energy or worsening of fatigue on exertion.
Two out of 10 women reported problems with both these things.
One out of 10 women reported that both of these things were ‘much worse’.
The authors remark:
Effects were seen in a generally healthy sample given modest statin doses, and both simvastatin and pravastatin contributed to the significant adverse effect of statins on energy and fatigue with exertion. Particularly for women, these unfavorable effects were not uncommon… These findings are important, given the central relevance of energy and functional status to well-being.
If you or someone you know appears to have statin-related fatigue or other symptoms (such as muscle pain), please see this blog post about how this might be reversed using supplements of Coenzyme Q10.
1. Golomb BA, et al. Effects of Statins on Energy and Fatigue With Exertion: Results From a Randomized Controlled Trial. Arch Int Med epub 11 June 2012