Beware: Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs Will Soon be Prescribed for Children

Cholesterol-lowering “statin” drugs work by inhibiting an enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase that is responsible for making cholesterol. Unfortunately, this is the same enzyme that also makes Co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10), one of the most powerful antioxidants in our bodies. CoQ10 helps protect us from the harmful effects of free radicals that cause a multitude of health conditions, including heart disease and cancer.

Blocking the body’s ability to produce cholesterol inevitably also blocks its ability to make CoQ10. Because of this association, many experts believe that the use of cholersterol-lowering drugs over extended periods of time increases the risk of cancer. One such expert is Diana Schwarzbein, MD, an endocrinologist and author of the best-selling diet book The Schwarzbein Principle. In her book, Dr. Schwarzbein quotes several studies that support an association between these medications and cancer risk.

A recent short-term study from The Netherlands found that these drugs were “safe” and effective in children (“Simvastatin safe and effective for children with familial hypercholesterolemia” Circulation, 2002; 106: 2231-37). It is likely that physicians in this country will soon be under pressure to screen children’s cholesterol levels and prescribe medications when levels are found to be high. Since these medications are usually prescribed for life, it can be expected that children will be exposed to the highest risk of side effects from long-term use.

You may think that high cholesterol in children is a rare occurrence but, surprisingly, it is not. I have been testing cholesterol in children for years and have been shocked to find elevated levels with surprising regularity. Why is this happening?

According to some experts, when the body is exposed to environmental toxins, including heavy metals like mercury, it increases its production of cholesterol to get the extra CoQ10 that comes with it.

Others, including Dr. Schwarzbein, hold that the real cause of high cholesterol is a diet that is too high in sugar and other carbohydrates, not saturated fat. This position might have seemed incredible just a few years ago, but our understanding of the entire cholesterol issue is evolving quickly. A recent study cited in a previous issue of this newsletter revealed that cholesterol actually fell in people who ate an Atkins-like diet, very low in carbohydrates and high in animal protein and fats.

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