Part of the disease of pre-diabetes and metabolic syndrome are abnormal levels of the “different types of cholesterol.”
Because of this, many people who are trying to prevent prediabetes and avoid full diabetes, are on medicines known as “statins.” These medicines are often needed, but are not without side effects. By making some simple lifestyle changes you can get off statin drugs so you don’t have to be concerned about the potential muscle soreness and cramping side effects that can occur with these drugs. A nutrient known as Coenzyme Q10 may also support muscle health for people on statins. Read on and learn what you can do to decrease your odds of having muscle aches and pain statin side effects that can decrease your ability to participate in the healthy movement lifestyle that will enable you to improve your cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Medical research supports so-called “statin” medicines decreasing cardiovascular death and disease, but like most medicines, they come with a price. I am not referring to the financial cost of the medicine, but the fact that one of the potential side effects of these medicines is muscle soreness, aching and cramping. Some examples of statins include: atorvastatin (Lipitor), simvastatin (Zocor), pravastatin (Pravachol) and lovastatin (Mevacor).
Statins are most commonly prescribed for lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels. For the sake of simplicity, LDL is often referred to as a “type of cholesterol.” Regular Nutrientology readers know that LDL is considered a major player in the formation of plaque that blocks the blood circulation in blood vessels. It is this blockage in the heart that can cause a heart attack and the blockage of blood flow in the feet and legs that can cause pain, injury and possible loss of the foot.
While I do not see this muscle-soreness side-effect in its severe form very commonly, I have had patients experience muscle aches, pains and weakness while on a statin drug forcing them to stop taking it. The exact cause of this muscle soreness and weakness is not exactly known, but it is believed to be due to having less of a nutrient called coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) in the body. A decrease in the amount of CoQ10 has been suspected as the cause, or at least part of the cause, of statin muscle cramping and soreness because statins block your body’s ability to make CoQ10.
Most CoQ10 is made by your body through a complex route with several twists and turns. Very little is taken in from the food you eat. This is part of the reason why anything that effects your body’s ability to make CoQ10 can have consequences. Statin medicines block one of the routes needed for you to make CoQ10.
Some people are born with a defect in their ability to make enough CoQ10, and as a result they have a severe deficiency in this important nutrient. Looking at what happens to people as a result of an inborn CoQ10 deficiency may give us some insight as to what a less significant deficiency – or insufficiency such as that caused by statins – may look like.
People who are born with an inability to make enough CoQ10 end up with brain and/or muscle problems. Some of these conditions can be quite severe. Those of you who are interested in reading about this condition may go here for a good review article on congenital CoQ10 deficiency.
What does the medical research say about CoQ10 and statin side effects on muscles?
Research has shown that treatment with CoQ10 supplements can benefit many medical disorders and problems with CoQ10 deficiency. There have been several studies that have looked at whether or not taking a coenzyme q10 supplement may help decrease the muscle soreness side-effects of statin medicines.
One such study looked at the effect of CoQ10 in patients with muscle aches and soreness caused by taking statin medicines. Researchers took twenty eight patients between 50-70 years of age who had muscle side-effects from being treated with different types and doses of statin medicines. Any persistent muscle problems were evaluated after the study participants were given CoQ10 for 6 months. The results showed that muscle side-effects decreased significantly.
- Muscle pain decreased on average by 53.8%
- Muscle weakness by 44.4%.
- The people’s CQ10 levels were found to be increased by more than 194% supporting the fact that an oral CoQ10 supplement is effective at raising blood levels. This elevated CoQ10 level appears to have helped reduce statin muscle-soreness side effects.
Another study I came across came to a different conclusion about the effect of coenzyme Q10 supplementation on muscle-pain side effects cause by statins. These researchers looked at 76 people who were taking a statin who also developed muscle aches and pains in 2 or more extremities (arms and legs) within 60 days of starting their statin medicine or increasing their dose. They were treated with 60 mg CoQ10 two times per day for 3 months. With this approach they found that CoQ10 did not produce a greater response than a placebo in the treatment of apparent muscle-soreness side effects from statin drugs. Perhaps the dose was not high enough and/or perhaps this was a group who were simply more vulnerable to statin muscle-soreness side effects since it took them less than two months to experience this problem, and it happened in two or more of their extremities (arms and/or legs)?
Because a final study has not been done to really give doctors strong evidence that CoQ10 is helpful for statin side-effects, many will not advise a CoQ10 supplement. It appears that there is sufficient preliminary evidence that it can help, and I have not seen any research to support any harm in taking a CoQ10 supplement while on statin drugs. We also know that statins block the formation of CoQ10, so doesn’t it make some sense to supplement at least to some degree that which the body is inhibited from making? A high CoQ10 dosage should not be needed if not having side-effect symptoms – something for you to talk to your doctor about.
Go to the Nutrientology Store – managed by the lovely and talented Kimberly – for a quality CoQ10 Supplements.
Is this the statin study doctor’s are looking for?
There actually is a study currently underway to try to answer the question about the ability of CoQ10 to alleviate the muscle aches and pain side effects of statins. It is called the The Co-Enzyme Q10 in Statin Myopathy Study. It has been designed to examine the effect of CoQ10 supplementation on the muscle pain side effects of treatment with a statin called simvastatin.
The researchers will use patients with a documented history of muscle aches and pains during statin treatment. They will verify the muscle problems with statins, and give the patients simvastatin 20 mg daily plus either 600 mg daily of CoQ10 or placebo – quite a high dose, especially when you consider that the study I just cited only used a dose of 60 mg two times per day.
The researchers will evaluate and record muscle pain during weekly phone calls for 8 weeks, or until muscle symptoms are reported continuously for 1 week, or become intolerable. The study participants will then switch over to an alternative treatment of either a CoQ10 supplement or a placebo. Hopefully this will give us some insight into the potential statin muscle side-effects and whether CoQ10 supplementation can be helpful.
Other potential statin side effects prediabetics and others should be aware of.
In addition to statins being implicated in muscle soreness, there has been some suggestion that they may cause some degree of mental decline and increased blood sugar levels. This is the last thing you need if you have prediabetes metabolic syndrome, and you are on a mission to avoid diabetes. To accomplish this mission, you need to be clear-headed and you certainly do not need anything else challenging your ability to have healthy blood sugar levels. Recently the FDA expanded its statin warning to include mention of possible “cognitive impairment” with statin use.
Despite this, as well as the connection to a small increase in the risk of diabetes, most medical professionals believe the benefits of statin drugs outweigh the risks as is explained in this article. Ideally, you do not want to be part of this risk-benefit calculation. Talk to your doctor about what lifestyle changes you can make to help you get off statin drugs. Your doctor will be pleased (shocked) to hear you speak this way…Trust me, it’s not common speech.
Do not stop taking your statin medicines without your doctor’s input. The information presented here is just information. It is not your individual medical advice. Given that you are a Nutrientology reader, I know you are smart enough to know the difference.
Make healthy changes to your lifestyle. Eat real food. Move regularly. Sleep well. A simple, but effective recipe for going drug-free. I have previously posted about a diet and exercise approach for improving levels of the different types of cholesterol.
For those of you who are into trivia, you’ll want to know CoQ10 is the only fat-soluble antioxidant that animal cells make “from scratch.” Coenzyme Q10 is also known as Ubiquinone – it is found in virtually all cell membranes throughout the body.
If you want to read up on other benefits and functions of CoQ10 go to a great resource at the Linus Pauling Institute.