Statins are the most commonly used cholesterol-reducing drugs. There is evidence that taking them reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, though it certainly isn’t assured that this is because they reduce cholesterol levels. For more on this see here.
While statins may indeed have benefits for health, they are not without risk. The cholesterol-producing enzyme that statins inhibit (HMG-CoA reductase) also produces the substance coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). So, statin therapy can reduce CoQ10 production, and this may manifest as symptoms such as fatigue and muscle pain.
The link between statin therapy and such symptoms is often missed by doctors, and this almost certainly has something to do with the fact that the symptoms can come on months or even years after statin treatment is started. On the plus side, CoQ10 supplementation can often reverse the adverse effects of statins. For more on this, see here and here.
The results of a recently published study suggest that CoQ10 may do more for statin-takers than just reverse symptoms such as fatigue and muscular discomfort. In a study published on-line in the journal Diabetes Care, individuals with type 2 diabetes on statin therapy were given 200 mg or placebo for 12 weeks .
The chief measurement used in this study was ‘flow mediated dilatation’ (FMD) in one of the main arteries in the arm (the brachial artery). This measurement essentially tests the ability of arteries to relax, which is something that is good for blood flow in the artery, and is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease risk.
Before treatment, FMD in these individuals was impaired. This is a key finding in individuals with what is known as ‘endothelial dysfunction’ ” a state where the lining of the blood vessels does not function normally. Compared to placebo, taking CoQ10 in supplement form led to a significant rise in FMD.
The study subjects were type 2 diabetics with endothelial dysfunction, and we don’t know whether similar benefits would be seen in the individuals without these health issues. However, the fact that statin therapy can deplete CoQ10 levels is justification enough, I think, for individuals on this type of medication to supplement with CoQ10.
1. Hamilton SJ, et al. Coenzyme Q10 improves endothelial dysfunction in statin-treated type 2 diabetic patients. Diabetes Care published online ahead of print February 19, 2009