I was interested to read a new study (1) which confirmed long-standing concerns about the side-effects of cholesterol-lowering statins.
The study suggests that statin drugs can cause significant problems with energy levels and general fatigue, especially in women.
Statins are routinely prescribed to individuals with raised cholesterol levels and are among the most widely prescribed drugs in the UK.
These drugs lower cholesterol levels by inhibiting a liver enzyme (HMG-CoA reductase) which plays a role in cholesterol production. Unfortunately this enzyme is also important for the production of Co-enzyme Q10. CoQ10 is a nutrient found in almost every cell in the body and is essential for energy production in the muscles.
The study, published in Archives of Internal Medicine, followed a group of individuals who 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.
Overall, statins did indeed appear to cause a significant change in energy and worsen fatigue on exertion. Women were more affected than men.
In fact, 40% of the women receiving statins reported either a reduction in energy or a worsening of fatigue on exertion. 10% of the women reported that both of these issues were ‘much worse’.
Co-enzyme Q10 is essential for the ‘battery’ in each cell to power our muscles and organs. It is not surprising that depletion of co-Q10 can cause muscle weakness and fatigue. CoQ10 is also vital for heart function. According to one recent study (2), 71% of healthy people develop heart rhythm abnormalities when given statins.
It is important for those taking statins to be aware of the side-effects such as fatigue and muscle weakness, as these symptoms may only appear after some months or years after beginning statin treatment.
The good news is that those taking statins may be able to protect themselves from these side-effects by including good sources of coQ10 in their diet. The richest dietary sources of this nutrient are organ meats such as liver and kidney, as these are the bodily organs that naturally store high levels of CoQ10. Other sources include oily fish, eggs, nuts and spinach.
For most individuals, I believe that dietary sources of CoQ10 may be inadequate to combat the draining effect of statins. My own clients have experienced positive benefits through supplementing 50 – 100 mg of CoQ10 each day.
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
2. Silver MA, Langsjoen PH, Szabo S, Patil H, Zelinger A. (2004) Effect of atorvastatin on left ventricular diastolic function and ability of coenzyme Q10 to reverse that dysfunction. Am J Cardiol, 94(10):1306-10.