Thursday, April 14, 2005

Trading Fire for Fire

I remember reading years ago about a powerful new insecticide that was touted to be the most efficient roach killer ever produced. Scientists estimated that it would be effective for about 10 years, by which time the roach population was expected to have adapted to the poison. And worse: Roaches would then be better adaptors and therefore more resistant to any new insecticides that came along. Don't you hate it when a solution puts out one fire, only to start another one? A similar problem occurs when doctors and patients are encouraged by the medical mainstream to focus myopically on cholesterol as Public Enemy Number One of heart disease. Those who are convinced that lowering LDL cholesterol is the golden key to heart health might be inclined to take a statin drug. And if they do, they might very well succeed in pushing the LDL down. But for many patients who choose statins, the LDL threat is extinguished while other fires may begin burning. In our alerts we've written extensively about coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), a superior antioxidant that's essential for the production of energy in every cell of the body. Through years of research CoQ10 has been shown to be effective in protecting the cardiovascular system and helping to prevent heart disease. Ironically, statin drugs have been shown to deplete essential CoQ10 levels, which is why some doctors recommend CoQ10 supplements when they prescribe a statin drug. Last year, researchers at the University of Illinois (UI) conducted a study to examine the effects of atorvastatin (better known by its brand name; Lipitor) and supplements of CoQ10 on several heart disease markers. As reported in the American Journal of Cardiology, the UI team tested 14 subjects with no history of heart problems. After taking atorvastatin for three to six months, 10 subjects showed deterioration in at least one marker for heart function, and five subjects had deterioration in THREE different heart function markers. This would be a good time to restate the obvious: Statin therapy is supposed to IMPROVE cardiovascular health. After tests revealed the potential problems, nine subjects received 300 mg of CoQ10 daily for three months. During this period they continued to take atorvastatin. At the end of this second phase of the study, eight of the subjects showed improved levels of heart function markers, and the five that had previously shown worsening in three different markers improved in all three markers. This is a small study, but even so, the conclusion - that CoQ10 reduced the potential risk of heart failure that was apparently prompted by atorvastatin use - should serve as an eye-opener for anyone who's sold on the "life saving" value of statins. If you take statin drugs, or if you're in a high-risk group for cardiovascular problems, it's a good idea to have your CoQ10 level tested. According to one of our medical advisors Dr. Marty Milner, different laboratories use different methods to measure CoQ10, so reference points may vary. For example, the lab Dr. Milner uses measures CoQ10 levels in plasma; a normal range for that method is between .57 and 1.07 micrograms/ml. Your doctor can help you interpret the results of your lab report. If you find you are deficient, CoQ10 supplements are widely available. Generally, most health professionals agree the absolute minimum you should take daily is 30 mg, with 100 mg being considered the optimal dose by many. However, some practitioners recommend taking one milligram of CoQ10 for every pound of body weight. But for people with serious heart problems, recommend doses as high as 300 to 400 mg per day are not uncommon. Contrary to what the medical mainstream will tell you about lowering LDL and raising HDL, there are a number of very safe natural alternatives to statin drugs. In a previous alert I told you about perilla oil (a natural source of omega-3 fatty acids), arjuna (an ancient Ayurvedic herb that has been proven to lower cholesterol as much as 12 percent in just 30 days) and ProFibe (a grapefruit pectin powder that lowered LDL cholesterol between 25-30 percent in a study that included more than 200 subjects). In another alert I told you about policosanol, a compound of fatty alcohols that's gaining a reputation as an effective alternative to statin drugs. In one study, more than 240 post-menopausal women significantly lowered LDL levels (25.2 percent) while raising HDL levels nearly 30 percent. And more recently, in the alert "Dream Team" I told you how niacin supplements have been shown to dramatically boost HDL.

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