High blood levels of cholesterol are routinely believed to be responsible for heart disease, even though a large body of evidence now suggests that other factors such as inflammation and oxidative stress may be the real culprits. For instance, the Framingham study showed that nearly half of all heart attack victims have completely normal cholesterol levels.

However, most physicians still consider cholesterol levels over 200 as a sign of increased risk for heart disease. Typically, the first step of the solution they offer takes the form of reducing dietary fat consumption. The problem is, most people don’t know how to do this effectively - and anyway, low-fat diets don’t work unless you’re dangerously overweight to begin with.

So a prescription for a statin drug to lower cholesterol levels is usually the next step. Statins lower blood cholesterol levels by blocking an enzyme needed to make cholesterol in the liver. Since their introduction, the use of statin drugs has increased dramatically in the US population.

When natural production of cholesterol is slowed by statin drugs, the body begins to draw the cholesterol it needs from dietary sources, lowering blood cholesterol levels.

This is unlikely to have any positive effect on risk for heart disease, as shown in a recent study which concluded that changes in total cholesterol with statins did not correlate well with changes in cardiovascular events and all-cause mortality.

In the meantime, these are just a few of the many adverse effects of statins:

  • Depletion of coenzyme Q10 – this potentially fatal side effect of statins is usually not mentioned by either drug manufacturers or physicians. Coenzyme Q10 or CoQ10 is made naturally in the body and is fund in large quantities in heart muscle, the hardest-working muscle. Along with being a potent antioxidant, it is intimately involved in energy production processes. Statins act on the enzyme needed to make this molecule, depleting CoQ10 with consequent harmful effects on heart function - which is why along with healthy elderly people and patients with heart problems, people taking statins are also recommended to take daily CoQ10 supplements.
  • Liver damage – statins cause an increase in liver enzymes, which, if left unchecked, can lead to permanent liver damage.
  • Muscle damage and pain – statins cause tenderness and occasionally, breakdown of muscle cells. Combining statins with gemfibrozil, used to lower lipid levels, can send breakdown products of damaged muscle tissue to the kidney and damage them severely enough to make them fail. Dialysis is usually the only solution.

And now, new research reveals that statins may actually be contributing to an increased incidence of knee osteoarthritis. Symptomatic knee osteoarthritis is quite common in people older than 40 years. It is predicted to affect nearly 1 in every 2 persons by the age of 85 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Typical symptoms of osteoarthritis include pain, stiffness, muscle weakness and atrophy, along with a significantly decreased range of motion. Contributing factors include ‘wear and tear’ associated with age, prior injury or trauma, poor nutrition - for example lack of synovial fluid and collagen nutritional cofactors such as omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin C - and inflammation caused by wheat lectin and other chitin-binding lectin rich foods.

A retrospective study of patients in the San Antonio Military Multi-Service Market was published in the American Journal of Medical Sciences in Oct. 2012. Statin users - patients with at least one 3-month statin prescription - were compared to patients who did not receive a statin. Both groups were assessed for the development of musculoskeletal and neoplastic diseases in the following 4-year period. From over 90,000 patients, statin users were found to have significantly higher rates of osteoarthritis after adjusting for age, sex and other factors.

In another study published in the Nov 2012 issue of the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases, researchers from the Departments of Physical Therapy and Orthopedic Surgery at Virginia Commonwealth University studied the claim that statins have beneficial structural effects in persons with knee osteoarthritis. They examined a large cohort of persons to determine if statin usage was associated with observed changes in knee structure, pain and function.

To their surprise, statin use was not associated with any improvement - on the contrary, increased duration of statin use led to worsening in physical function scores over the study period.

Peripheral neuropathy is a serious complication of diabetes and several conditions that may lead to loss of lower extremity function and even amputations. Recent reports suggest a role for statins in the development of peripheral neuropathy. In a study published in the Journal of Diabetes in Nov. 2012, a modest but clear association was found between statin use and peripheral neuropathy in a U.S. population 40 years and older.

These new findings suggest that statins - very popular with the medical establishment for lowering blood cholesterol levels - along with being ineffective in treating heart disease, worsen risk of osteoarthritis along with being harmful to the human body in multiple ways.