Of course, statins inhibit the production of cholesterol–they do this very well. Nowhere is the failure of our medical system more evident than in the wholesale acceptance of cholesterol reduction as a way to prevent disease–have all these doctors forgotten what they learned in Biochemistry 101 about the many roles of cholesterol in the human biochemistry? Every cell membrane in our body contains cholesterol because cholesterol is what makes our cells waterproof–without cholesterol we could not have a different biochemistry on the inside and the outside of the cell. When cholesterol levels are not adequate, the cell membrane becomes leaky or porous, a situation the body interprets as an emergency, releasing a flood of corticoid hormones that work by sequestering cholesterol from one part of the body and transporting it to areas where it is lacking. Cholesterol is the body’s repair substance: scar tissue contains high levels of cholesterol, including scar tissue in the arteries.
Cholesterol is the precursor to vitamin D, necessary for numerous biochemical processes including mineral metabolism. The bile salts, required for the digestion of fat, are made of cholesterol. Those who suffer from low cholesterol often have trouble digesting fats. Cholesterol may also protect us against cancer as low cholesterol levels are associated with increased rates of cancer.
Cholesterol is vital to proper neurological function. It plays a key role in the formation of memory and the uptake of hormones in the brain, including serotonin, the body’s feel-good chemical. When cholesterol levels drop too low, the serotonin receptors cannot work. Cholesterol is a major component of the brain, much of it in the myelin sheaths that insulate nerve cells and in the synapses that transmit nerve impulses.
Some researchers believe that cholesterol acts as an antioxidant.2 This is the likely explanation for the fact that cholesterol levels tend to go up with age. As an antioxidant, cholesterol protects us against free radical damage that leads to heart disease and cancer.
Finally, cholesterol is the precursor to all the hormones produced in the adrenal cortex including glucocorticoids, which regulate blood sugar levels, and mineralocorticoids, which regulate mineral balance. Corticoids are the cholesterol-based adrenal hormones that the body uses in response to stress of various types; they promote healing and balance the tendency to inflammation. The adrenal cortex also produces sex hormones, including testosterone, estrogen and progesterone, out of cholesterol. Thus, low cholesterol–whether due to an innate error of metabolism or induced by cholesterol-lowering diets and drugs–can be expected to disrupt the production of adrenal hormones and lead to blood sugar problems, edema, mineral deficiencies, chronic inflammation, difficulty in healing, allergies, asthma, reduced libido, infertility and various reproductive problems.
Enter the Statins
Statin drugs entered the market with great promise. They replaced a class of pharmaceuticals that lowered cholesterol by preventing its absorption from the gut. These early drugs often had immediate and unpleasant side effects, including nausea, indigestion and constipation, and in the typical patient they lowered cholesterol levels only slightly. Patient compliance was low: the benefit did not seem worth the side effects and the potential for use was very limited. By contrast, statin drugs had no immediate side effects: they did not cause nausea or indigestion and they were consistently effective, often lowering cholesterol levels by 50 points or more.