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August 2023

"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

Seek Out Muscular Failure, Don't Avoid It

Exercise, when it is performed properly, is supposed to be hard. Let's think for a second about what we are doing when we perform a slow-speed, high intensity weight training workout. We are loading the muscular structures with a resistance that the exercise subject can safely handle at a 10/10 speed until they reach muscular failure in a window of one to three minutes of time under load. This sequence is performed for five to seven exercises that encompass the entirety of the body's musculature, both upper and lower body. The client will move quickly between exercises so that metabolic and cardiovascular conditioning are optimized (both are diminished if you rest between exercises). This is all done in order to provide the body with a good reason to mobilize its resources to make physical improvements. Although our natural instincts might tell us otherwise, we need to have a mindset where we seek out muscular failure rather than avoid it.

It is human to want to avoid discomfort. Pain and discomfort are the human body's mechanism for getting us to pay attention to what's going on. However, it's important to be able to make the distinction between exertional discomfort (which is harmless) and injurious pain (which is bad). The essence of true exercise is inroad. This means that we are systematically fatiguing our musculature, one repetition at a time, until we are no longer capable of completing another repetition in proper form. We still do not know what exact percentage of effort is optimal for stimulating maximum physical improvements. It might be 85 percent, but there is no real way to measure that. As it currently stands, there are only two measurements of effort: zero percent and 100 percent. We know for sure that giving no effort will not stimulate anything, and by going to muscular failure we have given as much effort as we can possibly give, i.e, 100 percent. Most people are not accustomed to exertional discomfort, but one's ability to mentally and physically deal with it will increase over time. This is how we become more resilient.

Form discrepancies are instinctive behaviors that try to make things just a little bit easier. A brief unload at bottom out or a slight off/on can give you just a momentary respite during an exercise. Even experienced clients with excellent form and motor control will occasionally commit form discrepancies, and it doesn't mean that you have any sinister motives. The problem is that in addition to posing safety hazards, form discrepancies unload the musculature and defeat the real objective that we are trying to accomplish. They make our exercise experience less efficient. When your muscles ache and your lungs burn, do you want to prolong the exercise? Form discrepancies can only serve to artificially extend the exercise by unloading the musculature and diminishing the stimulus. The idea is not to prolong the exercise, but rather to put an end to it. If you narrow your focus on proper form and speed at the moment things start to become challenging, you will finish the exercise more efficiently and achieve a higher quality of stimulus.

Don't succumb to your instincts! There is always a challenge to be met. The Total Results exercise protocol may seem easy at first, because we conservatively estimate the weights we use for the initial consultation. Teaching proper form is paramount, but we also want to mentally prepare you to deal with approaching muscular failure when that time comes. If we don't seek out and achieve muscular failure, then we don't create the greatest possible stimulus, which is the key to obtaining positive physical change. A workout only lasts twenty minutes; don't allow the physical and temporary discomfort of fatigue to stray you from your path.

Posted August 12, 2023 by Matthew Romans