Statins deplete the body of a nutrient that is vital for heart function

Coenzyme Q10 is a chemical which plays a key role in the production of energy in the body’s cells. Specifically, this substance participates in the processes within tiny powerhouses in cells known as ‘mitochondria’ (my-toe-con-dree-ah). Coenzyme Q10 is essential for the production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), a basic currency for energy in the body.

All of us need could do with maintaining coenzyme Q10 levels, and this has particular relevance to individuals who take statins: these drugs impair the product of coenzyme Q10. There is plenty of evidence in animals and humans that statins can indeed deplete the body of coeynzme Q10 [1].

The heart is a muscle, the cells of which contain mitochondria which depend on coenzyme Q10. Back in January, I wrote a post which explored the possibility that statins may be contributing to increasing incidence of heart failure (weakened heart function that can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, breathlessness and swelling in the legs).

The role of coenzyme Q10 depletion in heart has been highlighted by studies in which supplementation with it has been found to improve heart function [2]. Recently, though, there were reports (example here) of a new study which appears to have found that coenzyme Q10 supplementation can prevent major cardiovascular events (such as heart attacks) and save lives.

The research was led by Professor Svend Mortensen from Copenhagen, Denmark. In the study, individuals with severe heart failure were given 100 mg of coenzyme Q10, three times a day in addition to their normal care for 2 years. Outcomes were compared with a similar group receiving normal care and a placebo.

According to the report, coenzyme Q10 therapy essentially halved the number of ‘major adverse cardiovascular events’. It also, apparently, halved the overall risk of death too.

If you follow this trail of evidence, it’s not too far-fetched to suggest that while statins may ‘save lives’ in the relative short-term by reducing the risk of, say, heart attacks, they may possibly cause some people to perish in the long term as a result of chronic coenzyme Q10 depletion and associated heart failure.

One of the studies referred to above [1] contains a notable quote:

Statin-induced CoQ10 deficiency is completely preventable with supplemental CoQ10 with no adverse impact on the cholesterol lowering or anti-inflammatory properties of the statin drugs. We are currently in the midst of a congestive heart failure epidemic in the United States, the cause or causes of which are unclear. As physicians, it is our duty to be absolutely certain that we are not inadvertently doing harm to our patients by creating a wide-spread deficiency of a nutrient critically important for normal heart function.

The authors of this study make a good point, I think, and it’s perhaps something we doctors should take heed of.

References:

1. Langsjoen PH, et al. The clinical use of HMG CoA-reductase inhibitors and the associated depletion of coenzyme Q10. A review of animal and human publications. Biofactors 2003;18(1-4):101-11

2. Fotino AD, Effect of coenzyme Q10 supplementation on heart failure: a meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;97(2):268-75

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15 Responses to Statins deplete the body of a nutrient that is vital for heart function

  1. Stephen Rhodes 30 May 2013 at 8:42 pm #

    Hi,

    Reading the article reminded me that I had heard something about this before.

    The following is from http://www.functionalmedicineuniversity.com

    The Statin and Co-Enzyme Q10 Patent

    It is clinically documented statin medications (Lipitor, Crestor, Zocor, etc) lower the essential nutrient, Co-Enzyme Q10.

    Co-Enzyme Q10 is an important co-factor in the production of energy and particularly important in muscle function.

    Clinical studies show decreasing levels of Co-Enzyme Q10 lead to increasing severity of cardiovascular symptoms.

    Now here is the shocker!

    The pharmaceutical company, Merck, was issued a patent (4,933,165) on a special medication combining a statin medication and Co-Enzyme Q10.

    The researchers knew back in the late 80s and early 90s the significance of adding Co-Enzyme Q10 to statins. Furthermore they knew very well the negative impact of taking statins without supplementing with CoEnzyme Q10.

    The sad news is this special combination medication was never made available to the public. It was basically put on the shelf and forgotten.

    To read the entire patent, download the patent and see what has been hidden from the public for over 20 years.

    DOWNLOAD CoQ10-Statin Patent

    http://www.functionalmedicineuniversity.com/statin-CoQ10.pdf

  2. Anne Robertson 31 May 2013 at 7:34 am #

    A couple of years ago, my father-in-law, at our suggestion, asked his GP about coenzyme Q10 supplementation since he takes a statin. He was told that the practice had recently had a talk from the British expert on coenzyme Q10 and that it was totally unnecessary and its promotion was a scam! My father-in-law is 87 years old and suffering badly from the effects of the statin but he believes that his GP can do no wrong and that we know nothing at all.

  3. Dr John Briffa 31 May 2013 at 7:48 am #

    Anne

    I am sorry to hear that your father-in-law was given what I regard as poor information.

    However, what doctors are going to have to get used to is that there is an ever-growing band of people who are educating themselves about health and medicine and are not prepared to defer so much to doctors and the medical profession in general. As this group grows, there will be less and less opportunity for doctors to dole out misinformation.

    I know this does not help your father-in-law any, but I am actually very optimistic about the future. My belief that patients are driving change, whether doctors welcome that or not.

  4. Elizabeth 31 May 2013 at 7:42 pm #

    A month or so ago my husband had his usual “Pensioner’s MOT” at our GP surgery. All his results were fine, even outstanding for a 69 year-old.

    A few days later we received an unrequested personal call from our GP ( unheard of round here) in which he advised that my husband should take statins “just in case”…..

    Naturally my husband declined this generous invitation. We are left feeling rather dismayed that a doctor we have trusted for so long is doing this sort of thing, bearing in mind all the recent publicity about statins.

  5. Lorna 31 May 2013 at 8:22 pm #

    Similar experience here: our local village newlsletter this month carried a full page ;advert’ from the local GP surgery asking every one between 40-74 who DID NOT have heart condition/diabetes/kidney problems to contact the surgery to arrange for checks because “the good news is that the conditions (heart disease, stroke, diabetes or kidney disease) can sometimes be prevented even if there is a family history”.
    No mention of possibly being placed on lifelong medication as a result, particulary no mention of statins.This is the first time such an ‘appeal’ has been placed in the newsletter by the local GPs.
    Is there an NHS intitiative at the moment to ‘reward’ GPs for throwing the net ever-wider for mass medication?

  6. Karen 1 June 2013 at 12:45 pm #

    I’m an MI casualty – was put on the standard drug therapy afterwards. Which made me ill. The most valuable asset anyone can have when faced with life threatening illnesses is the ability to research, fact find and the right to choose. I don’t take the drugs anymore – it’s been over 3 years since I took the standard prescription. I have managed secure 300mg of COQ10 & 2000mg of Omecor fish oil on prescription,which I had to really bully my GP for. The remaining supplements I take are sourced by myself.
    I’ve recently been invited to join a new drug trial, injections that targets inflammation. I have agreed to participate as I read that this might be a cause of coronary artery disease and not a symptom. Hopefully, they will let me join in as I’m not against drugs that actually benefit & help patients to have quality of life.

  7. linda 13 June 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    Hi i was diagnosed with the genetic type 3 hyperlipidemia in 2011 with cholesterol 12.1
    i have been on 3 different statins rosuvastatin first i asked if i should be taking coq10 he said no its rubbish what you read Jan 2012 down to 4.5 and triglyceride 2.5 but ill with side effects stopped statins May no statin cholesterol 5.7 triglyceride 1.6 .
    My doc sugested to go back on statins but with diet in August cholesterol 3.5 triglyceride 1.4 (can they be too low ?) i was ill again October diet alone cholesterol 5.5 triglyceride 2.1 but my arms are sore and legs have changed shape .
    I read about policosanol so decided on my own to try December cholesterol 6.2 triglyceride 2.1.
    Feb this year cholesterol 8.2 triglyceride 3.4 still not well but not taking anything ,decided to take opti omega 3 capsules and do window slot eating 11 am -7 pm which i manage i wondered if i had become insulin resistant .
    April cholesterol 7.9 triglyceride 2.9 ,June bloods cholesterol 6.2 triglyceride 2.5 hdl 4.0,but still suffering arms muscles ,leg shape ,cramp and my vitamin D level 17 which i asked to have done is this an ok level as my doc says it is just below .
    I have been referred to a different specialist who i see on Tuesday what do you think i should ask ? i think statins are to blam for all the trouble i am having .
    I am a woman 48 years old height 5 feet 1 weight 8 stone and very active dont drink or smoke .thank you i always look on dr mercola

  8. Lorna 14 June 2013 at 3:14 pm #

    # Linda, sorry to hear all the trouble you are having. Wondered about a few things that you might want to consider before speaking to the new specialist:
    firstly, were you well BEFORE you started statins (you sound as though you were). Secondly, is there a family history of heart disease? If not, shouldn’t this be taken in to account? Thirdly, from the testimonies I have read on the internet e.g. film ‘Statinnation’ (can be seen on Youtube), the website Spacedoc.com and varous statin sufferers groups, it seems that the side-effects of statins can last for a long time. Maybe it is these side-effects that continue to trouble you, not any increase in cholesterol levels?
    Best wishes for improvement!

  9. linda 14 June 2013 at 6:28 pm #

    Hi ,
    Yes i was well i went with yellow spots on my knees and elbows and orange lines on my hands which i just wondered what they were all i had was a little numbness on my toes .Nothing else wrong with me healthwise .
    Yes both sides of my mums ,my gran aged 60 and dads had heart trouble my 2nd great grandma aged 31 and lots of relatives on this side of family havent lived above 50

    I will look on the sites you have given me thank you ever so much .
    I have been told i have osteoarthritis but can this be brought on from taking statins ?
    If i take vitamin D3 do i have to take vitamin K ?
    The statins i was on where rosuvastatin ,simvastatin and pravastatin i have also been given fenofibrate with side effects from all of them from swollen knees /ankles ,very upset ,low ,aches in legs and arms sore bones on elbows shape change on my thighs all this seems to be very weird as they have all just started to happen after being on medication .

  10. Lorna 16 June 2013 at 1:25 pm #

    #Linda, I don’t know answers to your questions about the vitamins but I hope the websites can give you answers. From what I have read, particularly on Spacedoc, the muscle pain is a symptom that takes a long time to diminish. I was interested in how your cholesterol and trigliceride levels stayed low for a while after stopping statins as you mentioned you had controlled it with ‘diet’. Was this low carb? There are a number of things that people take to lower cholesterol which, again, are on various websites. All the best for the specialist appointment on Tuesday… hope your side-effects are discussed with sympathy and some constructive advice.

  11. linda 1 September 2013 at 9:13 am #

    not great news my cholesterol has gone up in 2 months from 6.2 to 7.9 with intermittent fasting
    my triglycerides have come down though dont understand from 2.5 to 2.1
    My B12 they say is normal at 276 which i have read should be above 450 can anyone help
    my vitamin d is 17 which they are trying to get above 25 is that the normal level
    My left arm is terrible the muscles at the upper arm are painfull when i do certain things ,my memory is rubbish ,i get depressed easily,im always tired and i get strange headaches these have all come since i have been on statins i will never take another statin but the doc wants me back on them
    i take ubiquinol ,b12,b6 and vitamind with calcium these are my own medicine as i feel no one is here to help me now they have done the damage

  12. Lorna 2 September 2013 at 7:44 pm #

    @Linda, sorry to hear you sound so low. As far as the cholesterol measure is concerned you would find it useful to know if it is total serum cholesterol and, if so, what the LDL and HDLlevels are independently. Triglycerides coming down is good news. It is not a cut and dried picture and the news on statins and on cholesterol generally is constantly evolving (with a lot of news that cseeing holesterol as a ‘demon’ is far too simple if not downright wrong). I’d recommend subscribing to the website of Kris Kressler in the US who gives excellent nutritional advice IMO. And, if you haven’t already watched it, look up ‘Statinnation’ on ‘Youtube’ which is an excellent overview of how we come to be where we are with the cholesterol and statin mindset. Good luck to you and follow what your body tells you is good and listen to what it is warning you is bad.
    Regards, Lorna

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