Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Lowering blood cholesterol- do statins have side effects?

I was asked to comment about the safety and side effect of statins– Lipitor, Pravacol, Zocor and others– drugs that are very effective at lowering blood cholesterol and preventing death from heart attacks. I’m not an M.D., but my impression is that these are pretty good drugs as far as safety and efficacy goes.

However, they can occasionally be toxic to the liver and to muscles, and if you are taking a statin your doctor is probably checking for liver toxicity (ALT/AST) and should be checking for muscle toxicity (creatine kinase). Your job is to note any muscle weakness or pain that might indicate dangerous muscle breakdown, which might eventually be fatal.

If you are concerned, there are two things you can do– one is to take supplements of coenzyme Q and vitamin D along with your statin. I can’t say that the evidence for benefits of these supplements is unequivocal, but I would take them if it were me.

The other thing you can do is to work with me to lower your cholesterol without statins. I’ve had great success with nutritional strategies that go far beyond the pretty useless low-fat recommendations you’ve probably given up on. Look on the testimonials page of my website ( or search my name on Yelp for clients bragging about their low cholesterol numbers.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Does whte bread do any harm?

Although I talk about the merits of whole wheat flour all the time, I don’t think having a little white flour or bread made with a mixture of whole and refined flours is all that bad.

You will be missing out on the fiber, potassium, magnesium, calcium, etc. that are removed when grains are refined. But if the starches you eat are mostly whole foods, like oats or kasha for breakfast, corn tortillas with lunch and potatoes with dinner, then you can afford to add in some white flour.

I like Beckmann’s German Farm Bread even though the first ingredient is white flour. Good nutrition is all about moderation- people who eat whole wheat and not much else become zinc deficient because the fiber binds zinc and you can’t absorb it.