Statins are one of the most effective lipid-lowering drugs available for controlling blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It is not a single drug but rather a class of drugs that have been shown to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular events associated with atherosclerosis, a narrowing of the arteries due to the buildup of fatty plaques in its walls. As with most modern drugs, there are a host of side effects that may arise with statin use. Despite advances in more effective statins with fewer side effects, statins are not as yet entirely free of side effects and other health risks.
Some of these side effects cause obvious signs and symptoms, which may be detected by the doctor or perceived only by patients who are using statins. There is also a range of side effects that may not have obvious signs and symptoms but that have a host of debilitating effects, either directly or indirectly in the long term. The potential for side effects to occur should not detract from statin use. Often the benefits of statins outweigh their side effects. However, necessary measures should be taken to minimize these side effects whenever possible.
One such side effect of statin use is the reduction in ubiquinol levels. Ubiquinol is the active, antioxidant form of coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10, and plays an important role in energy production within the body. It also helps protect cells against free radical damage. The change in ubiquinol levels may not directly cause any overt symptoms, but ubiquinol is a vital nutrient for health and well being. In fact, one of the many benefits of ubiquinol is that it helps protects against heart disease and atherosclerosis – the very same conditions that statin use is intended to prevent.
The Action of Statins on Ubiquinol
There are a number of studies that have verified that the use of statins reduces ubiquinol levels in the body. Understanding how this occurs is important. Despite being such an effective drug in controlling blood lipid levels, the actions of statins are not targeted specifically at lipids without any subsequent effect on other substances in the body. Statins work by reducing the body’s cholesterol production; most cholesterol is produced endogenously within the body and not sourced exogenously from food as is often thought. But the body produces CoQ10 via the same biological pathway as cholesterol, so statins effectively block the body’s ability to produce both cholesterol and CoQ10.
When fats are degraded, it gives rise to a substance known as acetyl-CoA (acetyl coenzyme A). It may also be formed in glucose and protein metabolism. Acetyl-CoA is an important substance in energy production. It can also be used to form cholesterol and CoQ10. When acetyl-CoA is metabolized, it forms acetoacetyl-CoA and then HMG-CoA. The enzyme HMG-CoA reductase then allows for HMG-CoA to be converted into melvalonic acid. It is melvalonic acid, when converted into melvalonate, that can be then be made into cholesterol or CoQ10.
Statins work by blocking the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase. These drugs are therefore also known as HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors. By doing so, statins prevent HMG-CoA from being converted into melvalonic acid and subsequently into cholesterol. However, CoQ10 production is also compromised in the process. Statins do not block all cholesterol production in the body. Similarly CoQ10 levels are not lowered completely. Nevertheless, even a slight drop in CoQ10 levels can have a host of effects, some of which are not evident for years or even decades.
Side Effects of Statins
Side effects can arise with the use of any drug, and not all statin users experience side effects. Some of these side effects are common to most drugs, including nausea, a bloated sensation and constipation or diarrhea. However, there are also other side effects that are fairly characteristic to the use of statins. The most notable of these is muscle pain (myalgia) and sometimes even muscle dysfunction (myopathy), liver damage, nerve inflammation (neuralgia) and nerve dysfunction (neuropathy).
When statins are used in conjunction with niacin, a drug for lowering triglyceride levels, then headaches, skin rashes, nasopharyngitis (the common cold), sleep disorders and sexual dysfunction may occur in some cases. While a statin itself, or its byproducts, may directly irritate, damage or disturb the functioning of different parts of the body, it has now been noted that its effects on ubiquinol levels are an equally important mechanism in statin-associated side effects. It robs the body of its innate protective measures derived from CoQ10.
Ubiquinol Supplementation with Statins
CoQ10 is produced in the body and sourced in a variety of foods. Statins are a chronic drug; they are used over a long period of time and often continued throughout life. The opportunity for CoQ10 levels to return to normal never again arises in most instances. Statins are usually prescribed for people over the age of 30 with moderately to severely elevated blood cholesterol levels. It is also around the age of 40 that the CoQ10 levels start to diminish as part of the natural aging process.
Simultaneous supplementation of CoQ10 is therefore important alongside statin use. More evidence is now coming to light that one of the ways in which statins may cause side effects is through its disruption in the levels of certain nutrients, such as CoQ10. Ubiquinol is the active, antioxidant form of CoQ10 that is more effective than traditional CoQ10 supplements, which are made using the oxidized form of CoQ10 (ubiquinone). Kaneka Ubiquinol has been shown to effectively replace depleted levels of CoQ10 from statin medication use.
Ubiquinol is known to be a powerful antioxidant that protects the cells from damage caused by free radicals. In addition, ubiquinol has the capacity to regenerate vitamins C and E, two other potent antioxidants in the body. Prolonged statin medication use can deplete the body’s natural ubiquinol levels and cause sides effect such as muscle pain and cramps. Several studies have shown that Kaneka Ubiquinol helps replenish depleted CoQ10 levels for people on statin drugs, and healthy CoQ10 levels support cardiovascular health.
Ubiquinol’s effectiveness in promoting heart health, replenishing natural CoQ10 levels and protecting against cellular damage strongly supports using Kaneka Ubiquinol supplements alongside statin drugs.
About the Author
Jaclyn Werner is passionate about living a healthy life. As a home health care aide assisting the elderly in hospices and in their homes, Werner has seen firsthand the positive effects that a healthy diet and exercise can have on the body—and what happens when nutrition is ignored. She has since become a staunch advocate of educating the public about ways to improve overall health and well-being. Werner, who takes advantage of Colorado’s landscape regularly for hiking and mountain biking, resides in Denver with her husband and daughter. Currently, she is a technical writer for Kaneka Nutrients.