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Imagine the electrical wiring in your garage suddenly shorts out; now you have no working light in your garage and you can’t see at night. The electrician you hire to solve the problem instructs you to leave your car headlights on overnight so you will be able to see in your garage.
You do it and the problem is solved! But in the process a whole host of new problems are created—and the old problem never gets fixed on a permanent basis.
As farfetched as this scenario sounds, millions of Americans every day take prescription drugs that, while designed to fix one problem, cause a slew of side effects. In particular, statin drugs are prescribed to help reduce blood cholesterol levels, thereby decreasing the risk of heart attacks.
But while statins decrease the amount cholesterol in the body, they also impair the function of the mitochondria, the “engine” of the body’s cells.
Mitochondria: The Real Secret to Lifelong Health
Mitochondria are the little engines in our cells that take the foods we eat and the oxygen we breathe and convert them into energy. That energy is used to support every function in our body.
Each cell holds hundreds or thousands of mitochondria; altogether, we have more than 100,000 trillion mitochondria in our bodies. These powerful energy-producers are very sensitive to damage. When they are impaired, you suffer all the symptoms of low energy—fatigue, memory loss, pain, rapid aging, and more. Understanding this makes it easy to see why statin damage to the mitochondria has such debilitating results. In fact, a Statin Study Group led by Beatrice Golomb, MD, PhD concluded that damage to the mitochondria was the primary underlying cause of all the adverse side effects of statin drugs.
Statin drugs work to lower cholesterol by inhibiting a liver enzyme called HMG Co-A reductase, thus reducing the liver’s ability to make LDL cholesterol. Statins do a good job at blocking that LDL production. But that same pathway that blocks cholesterol also blocks the production of CoQ10 (co-enzyme Q10), a vitamin-like substance that is essential to the process of making energy within the mitochondria.
Wow. Fix one problem and create another. Does that sound familiar?
First, talk to your doctor if you notice any side effects such as muscle aches and pains, fatigue, memory loss, numbness in the fingers and toes, stomach upset, headaches or dizziness.* Second, consider coenzyme q10 health benefits to improve the energy production of your cells:
- What is coenzyme q10? CoQ10 supplements are made from two primary sources – vitamin K and ubiquinol. Ubuquinol is the purest form of CoQ10 as it regenerates other antioxidants such as Vitamin C and Vitamin E. When purchasing a CoQ10 supplement, make sure you get the ubiquinol (or ubiquinone) form over the vitamin K form.
- Most integrative doctors recommend that healthy people under age 60 take a minimum daily dose of 50 to 100 mg of CoQ10 when wanting to boost their mitochondrial function. If you’re over 60 or on a statin drug, the recommended dosage increases to 100 to 200 mg daily. If you had recent heart surgery, heart attack, or congestive heart failure, the recommend amount is 200 to 300 mg daily. It is also suggested that you divide the dosages, taking half of your daily CoQ10 in the morning and the rest in the afternoon which will increase blood levels substantially. (If you’re taking any prescription medications, be sure to talk with your doctor or integrative physician before beginning a CoQ10 supplement as CoQ10 can interact with certain medications.)
Coenzyme q10 benefits include keeping the “engines” (mitochondria) in your body working properly. But you’ll also need to take steps to correct your primary problem—getting your high cholesterol levels lowered. The good news is there are several effective approaches that integrative physicians are using successfully to tame abnormal cholesterol levels naturally.
 Golomb BA, Evans MA., American Journal of Cardiovascular Drugs 2008;8(6):373-418
 Arch Intern Med. 2012;0(2012):20116231-9.
 JAMA. 2011;306(12):1325-1326.
 The Lancet. 2010;375(9716):735-742.
*Never stop or change medications without talking with your doctor first.
Originally published in 2012, this blog has been updated.