There are literally tens of millions of people in the United States taking one or more drugs to lower their cholesterol and triglycerides. Lipitor, a cholesterol lowering drug, is one of the biggest selling drugs in the world.
Although these drugs known as the class of “statins” are widely prescribed, they are not without side effects. In the last year, a very powerful statin drug called Baycol was removed from the marketplace after the death of thirty people.
The statin drugs have known liver toxicity and it is not uncommon for me to see patients in my office complaining of muscle pain/weakness or some peripheral nerve condition resulting from the statins. The statin drugs are known to lower coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) levels in the cells which is a critical nutrient for energy production. A lack of CoQ10 can cause muscle and nerve cells to die from a lack of energy.
Fortunately, there is an alternative that appears to be extremely safe. There is a nutrient known as policosanol. It is an interesting nutrient isolated from sugar cane wax. It has been shown to lower cholesterol not only in animal models, but in healthy individuals and those suffering with hypercholesterolemia. The prestigious American Heart Journal last year reviewed the literature on policosanol in regard to placebo controlled studies published only in peer review journals. The review of the literature indicated that at doses of 10 mg to 20 mg a day, policosanol lowered total cholesterol anywhere from 17% to 21% along with lowering low density lipoprotein LDL by 21% to 29%.
Additionally, these studies indicated that it raised the good cholesterol known as HDL cholesterol by anywhere from 8% to 15%. At doses of up to 20 mg a day of policosanol was seen to be safe and well tolerated in studies of greater than three years duration. The underlying mechanism of function is uncertain. It does not, however, seem to work as the statins do, inhibiting HMG co-enzyme A reductase. The American Heart Journal concluded that policosanol seemed to be a very promising phytochemical alternative to classic lipid lowering agents, such as the statins and deserved further attention.
Not only is policosanol a cholesterol lowering agent, it also has concomitant anti-platelet effects. In a study out of Havana, Cuba published in the journal Angiology in January of this year, patients were randomized to receive either policosanol 10 mg a day or Lovastatin. These patients suffered with moderately severe intermittent claudication. This is a condition where there is narrowing of the arteries in the legs and with walking, the individual experiences pain. The study was carried on for a total of twenty weeks and was double-blinded. Patients in the policosanol group reported improvement in quality of life in terms of exertional leg pain. Policosanol lowered total cholesterol by 17.5% and LDL cholesterol by 31% while increasing HDL by 31.5%. Six patients in the Lovostatin group experienced side effects where as none were experienced in the policosanol group. The study concluded that policosanol but not Lovostatin was a suitable alternative to manage patients with intermittent claudication.
Look for a supplement that has at least 20mg of policosanol in the product, but also an extremely safe form of niacin known as inositol hexaniacinate. This form of niacin can lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol without the flushing of regular niacin. Niacin was actually the first product to save lives and reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase good cholesterol (HDL) going back many decades ago. Additionally another good nutrient is known as beta sitosterol. This is a plant extract from soy or rice which can improve cholesterol metabolism. It works by decreasing the absorption of cholesterol in the digestive system and decreasing the amount of cholesterol produced by the liver.
Other important nutrients that promote healthy cholesterol and/or prevent LDL cholesterol from being oxidized included in this product are standardized grape seed extract (Activin), standardized artichoke extract, standardized green tea extract, chromium, pantethine and gamma oryzanol. Preventing LDL from oxidizing is a very important step to prevent the LDL cholesterol from clogging arteries. Policosanol, beta sitoserol, CoQ10 200 mg and many of these other important nutrients are also found in good supplements. My advice to the tens of millions of people that are now taking a statin drug is to take at least 200 mg per day of CoQ10.
Also consider supplementation as a natural option for promoting healthy cholesterol levels, it can be used with or without a statin drug.
It is extremely important that if you do go from taking a pharmaceutical lipid lowering drug to a healthy, natural alternative, you should still have regular follow up visits and blood work with your personal physician.
You should be aware, the most important thing to measure is the cholesterol ratio, this is much more important than the total cholesterol. A ratio of three is perfect and these people rarely have heart disease. As this ratio increases by each point, your rate of heart disease doubles and compounds. A four is double risk when compared to a three, and a five is a 400% higher risk when compared to a three, and so on.