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"The Statin Damage Crisis" - A Book Review

Duane Graveline, M.D., M.P.H, was a NASA physician and former astronaut who unfortunately passed away in 2016. He wrote a series of books about the dangers of statin drugs, and some of his own harrowing experiences are included in his work. Dr. Graveline was first prescribed statins in 1999 at the strong recommendation of the doctors at NASA, purportedly due to having high cholesterol. After two serious adverse events, both of which had long-lasting repercussions, he took himself off statins for good. In large part due to his own experiences, Dr. Graveline began meticulously researching statin drugs and their side effects so that others might benefit from his knowledge. "The Statin Damage Crisis" was self-published in 2012.

Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, author of the book "The Great Cholesterol Con", set the tone for this book in the introduction that he wrote. According to Dr. Kendrick, "If you took a statin for thirty years, you could expect five to six months of increased life expectancy. And that's it. And that is only for men, with pre-existing heart disease. For women, forget it. These drugs are pointless, and cannot extend your life by one day." If the drugs were merely ineffective that would be one thing, but as Dr. Graveline goes on to explain these drugs are actually quite harmful. It's important to understand the origin for the rise of statin drugs as well as how they work. Ancel Keys, a physiologist, conducted his Seven Countries study in 1958 in order to learn about the relationship between dietary consumption and heart disease. Unfortunately, the study was flawed. As Dr. Graveline explains, "None of us realized that Keys had consciously manipulated the data to include only those studies that agreed with his preconceived idea. None of us was scientist enough to know the difference between natural cholesterol of angelic disposition and its devilish oxy-cholesterol brother that blocked rabbit arteries with such ease." Statin drugs work largely by inhibiting the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase, which is essential for the production of cholesterol. They also inhibit the production of vital intermediary products such as ubiquinone (coenzyme Q10) and dolichols, which can have harmful repercussions for many people. It appears that the cholesterol-inhibiting function of statins is completely unnecessary. As the author states, "Unfortunately we are now learning that this cholesterol manipulation is irrelevant to atherosclerosis and increased cardiovascular risk." In addition, ubiquinone inhibition negatively impacts energy production, and dolichol inhibition can have a wide range of possible behavioral manifestations.

Side effects of statins include congestive heart failure, chronic fatigue, hepatitis, rhabdomyolysis (muscle damage which results in the release of protein and electrolytes into the blood), peripheral neuropathy, depression, mood swings, memory loss, and cognitive impairment. Dr. Graveline details the tragic story of the father of Steve Sparks, a well-known statin activist. Mr. Sparks was a self-sufficient, seemingly healthy octogenarian who led a very active life. He was prescribed Baycol (a statin that was later taken off the market) and within 24 days was hospitalized with complete renal failure. Less than two months after being prescribed the drug, Steve Sparks's father was dead. Dr. Graveline discusses his own personal experience with statins, which included two separate bouts of transient global amnesia (defined as, "the sudden inability to formulate new memory, known as anterograde amnesia, combined with varying degrees of retrograde memory loss, sometimes for decades into the past"). The author also suffered from extreme weakness and easy fatigability in his legs and lower back, peripheral neuropathy, lateral sclerosis, and could no longer walk without assistance. This degeneration took place after only three and a half months of being on a 10 mg or less dosage of Lipitor. After his second time on the drug, Dr. Graveline unilaterally decided to take himself off the medication and embarked on an aggressive course of nutritional therapy that included liberal doses of CoQ10, vitamin E, vitamin C, vitamin D, and PQQ, which is an antioxidant mitochondrial enhancer. He also incorporated barefoot walking. After four years of progressive decline prior to starting this course of therapy, the author was able to regain some of his physical and cognitive abilities, but some of the damage from statins was permanent.

Cholesterol is an essential substance produced by the body, and is a constituent of the membrane that surrounds every cell. Contrary to what we have been led to believe over the past half century, cholesterol is not an inherently evil entity. As the author says, "This same substance that society has been taught to fear happens to be our sole source for androgen, estrogen, and progesterone." He goes on to say that, "...Alzheimer's disease is characterized by a progressive and irreversible loss of neurons and synapses associated with cholesterol deficit." The real danger in terms of heart disease is not cholesterol build-up in the arteries, but rather inflammation. Dr. Graveline says, "We now have evidence that atherosclerosis is the result of inflammatory factors such as homocysteine, secondary to genetic or acquired deficiencies of vitamin B6, B12, and folic acid. Homocysteine has been shown to be a major player in atherosclerotic change, with coagulation defects, platelet factors and selected anti-oxidant deficiencies responsible for most of the rest. Cholesterol no longer is deserving of even a place in the lineup of usual suspects." The truth is that almost all major intervention studies have failed to show a significant correlation between cardiovascular disease and serum cholesterol levels. Unfortunately the pharmaceutical companies have been very successful at driving home their message on the supposed benefits of statins.

What are some safer and more effective alternatives to taking a statin? For the person at average risk, Dr. Graveline believes the focus should be on reducing inflammation; this is best accomplished by achieving a 2 to 1 ratio between your omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Eat plenty of animal-based proteins like fish, eggs, yogurt, meat, and cheese, and supplement with vitamins B6, B12, folic acid, tocotrienol, CoQ10, and buffered aspirin. People at higher risk should also add in vitamin D, low doses of Red Yeast Rice and Aged Garlic Extract. All of these will provide the anti-inflammatory benefits without the potentially lethal side effects of statins.

Dr. Graveline's belief is that, "Statin drugs cause effects on our mitochondria identical to those that accumulate with age. One might say that one side effect of statin therapy is premature aging." Not everyone who takes a statin will experience deleterious side effects, but the fact of the matter is that they do more harm than good. If you are currently taking a statin, Dr. Graveline recommends you taper off slowly rather than stopping them abruptly. I believe that the author has done us all a great service in bringing attention to these dangerous drugs. My hope is that those of you reading this review will put this information to good use, and that those of you currently taking a statin can get off of them before any permanent damage is incurred.

Posted August 24, 2023 by Matthew Romans