Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How statins 'leave 40% of women patients exhausted': Those at low risk better off NOT taking them, scientists say

At last the truth is leaking out.  Side effects used to be stated at around 1 or 2%.  Now a multitude of terrors are being admitted

The energy-sapping effect of taking statins is greater than previously thought, scientists said last night.  Women taking the anti-cholesterol drugs are particularly at risk of fatigue, they warned.

Two in five women patients had less energy than before, with one in ten saying they felt ‘much worse’.  Overall, around a fifth of those taking the drug reported they had less energy, fatigue upon exertion or both compared with non-users.

Researchers say the side-effects are greater than expected, and some people at low risk of heart disease may be better off not taking them.

More than eight million adults at risk of heart attacks and strokes are already taking statins and some experts believe the benefits mean all healthy adults over 50 should be taking them.

At present statins are restricted to people with a 20 per cent risk or more of having a heart attack or stroke during the next ten years.

Although some patients had already reported fatigue or exercise intolerance when placed on statins, previous trials had not looked at exertion fatigue or impaired energy in patients on statins compared with placebo treatments.

More than a million prescriptions for statins are written each week, compared with just a few  thousand 30 years ago.

Used to reduce levels of cholesterol in the blood, they make up nearly a fifth of all medicines prescribed for heart and circulatory disease, totalling 61million prescriptions in 2011 in England alone.

Statins are normally given to patients with high cholesterol levels after a heart attack, stroke or bypass surgery.

Some studies suggest they may protect against other health problems, including blood clots, Alzheimer’s and eye disorders, by maintaining a healthy supply of blood to the brain. They may also cut the risk of dying from pneumonia.

The most serious adverse reaction is myopathy in about one in 1,000 users, resulting in muscle pain, tenderness and weakness.   This condition can progress to rhabdomyolysis – a complete breakdown of muscle cells that may lead to kidney failure and death.  In some patients muscle weakness may persist even after stopping the drugs.

Other side-effects include cataracts, constipation or diarrhoea, headaches, loss of appetite and loss of sensation or pain in the nerve endings of hands and feet.

The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Products Agency has warned about additional risks of sleep disturbances, memory loss, sexual dysfunction, depression and, very rarely, interstitial lung disease.

Studies show the risk of type 2 diabetes is raised by 12 per cent with high-dose statins compared to moderate doses.

In a study of more than 1,000 adults, a third of whom were women, researchers at the University of California, San Diego, looked at the side-effects of the drugs on energy levels and exercise capacity.

In the trial headed by Beatrice Golomb, associate professor of medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine, participants, were randomly given identical capsules containing either a placebo or one of two statins at relatively low potencies: Pravastatin at 40mg or simvastatin at 20mg. People with heart disease and diabetes were excluded.

Those taking part rated their energy and fatigue with exertion relative to a resting base line, on a five-point scale, from ‘much worse’ to ‘much better.’

The ones taking statins were significantly more likely than those on the placebo to report worsening energy levels, fatigue after exertion, or both, says a report in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

Both statins contributed to the finding, though the effect appeared to be stronger among those on simvastatin.

Professor Golomb said: ‘Side-effects of statins generally rise with increasing dose, and these doses were modest by current standards. Yet occurrence of this problem was not rare, even at these doses, and particularly in women.’

Although the study found  overall a worsening of fatigue for one in five people, four in ten women on simvastatin cited worsened energy or exertional fatigue, two in ten cited worsening in both, or rated either one as ‘much worse’.

But one in ten women rated both energy and exertional fatigue as ‘much worse’.

Professor Golomb said: ‘Energy is central to quality of life. It also predicts interest in activity.  ‘Exertional fatigue not only predicts actual participation in exercise, but both lower energy and greater exertional fatigue may signal triggering of mechanisms by which statins may adversely affect cell health.’

She said doctors should take account of these side-effects before prescribing statins for groups where there is little evidence they save life.

Professor Golomb said this included most patients without heart disease, women and those over 70, even if heart disease was present.


Is healthy eating making you miserable? Flax seeds, bean sprouts and ricemilk may be what the nutrition Nazis WANT you to eat, but experts are warning the results can be life-wrecking...

Attending a friend’s hen party in a restaurant a decade ago, I found myself accosted by a well-known socialite. ‘You’re drinking white wine?’ she asked, scandalised. ‘But it has no health benefits whatsoever! You should have red wine — it’s full of antioxidants.’

The idea that you could drink wine for pleasure rather than for its nutritional value was clearly something that hadn’t occurred to her. At the time, I found her attitude hilarious. Now it’s ubiquitous.

An increasing number of diet-obsessed women are evaluating everything they eat based on the ‘goodness’ that a specific food contains. It’s been labelled ‘nutritionism’ — instead of simply eating foods because we like them, we construct meals based around the nutrients that we hope to get out of them.

Mary McCartney, photographer daughter of Paul, and author of a new vegetarian cookery book, recently described her usual breakfast:

‘I make myself a disgustingly healthy smoothie every morning. I see it as an insurance policy — if I’ve had something virtuous for breakfast, it doesn’t matter so much if things go a bit haywire later on.

I blend one spoonful of Amazing Grass Green Superfood Powder, one scoop of whey protein, one cup of rice milk, one spoonful of Omega 3-6-9 Oil and a handful of flax seeds with a banana.’ It’s less an alternative to a slice of toast and Marmite, and more a chemistry experiment.

So when did eating well become so complicated and so joyless?
As Michael Pollan, author of the bestselling In Defence Of Food, has pointed out, humanity has been feeding itself successfully for millennia, but now that the scientists have got involved, our relationship with what we eat has altered.

We now wait to be told what we should eat rather than decide what we’d like to eat. But, ironically, if you’re cutting out whole food groups in your quest for vitality and longevity — for example, by becoming a a raw food-munching vegan— then you might actually be making yourself miserable by missing out on essential mood-boosting, serotonin-rich foodstuff.

Nutrition therapist Ian Marber even warns that obsessing about whether food is healthy or unhealthy may actually be one of the reasons you are getting fatter. He says: ‘The trouble with dividing up foods into “good” and “bad” is that people think if something’s good for you, they can eat as much of it as they like. But all food is fattening if you eat enough of it.’

Actress Lysette Anthony, 47, became a victim of nutritionism while living in L.A., its spiritual home.  ‘I was fantastically neurotic about what I ate,’ she says. ‘I used to go to a juice bar every morning and pay a ridiculous amount to drink ground-up blades of grass.

‘Then I had to sit very still for five minutes so I wouldn’t be sick. I loathed it. I also ate egg-white omelettes to avoid the cholesterol in the yolk, which is an incredibly boring way to eat. It made my life a misery.’

Now she’s back in the UK and starring in Lady Windermere’s Fan in Manchester, she finds she needs to eat four meals a day to cope with the demands of the role.

She breakfasts on toast, has avocado sandwiches for lunch, protein and vegetables for dinner — ‘You can’t eat carbs before you put on a corset!’ — then whatever she likes once the curtain comes down.

‘I’ve gone back to the good old adage of having a little of what you fancy,’ she says, ‘and I’m fighting fit as a result.’

But she hasn’t quite shaken off her belief in nutritionism. ‘I still force myself to eat lots of red cabbage because it’s anti-inflammatory,’ she admits.

By contrast, Marber says: ‘I never look at food and think: “Ooh, that’s a good source of fibre or Vitamin C.” I eat it if I want to and I don’t add up the calories.’

He believes that by focusing on the nutrients in food rather than on the food itself, we have lost touch with our instinct for what we should be eating. ‘People have forgotten food is a source of nourishment and pleasure. It’s supposed to be delicious.’

Would he eat a cream cake? ‘Of course — just not after every meal. It’s all about balance. We in the West are lucky to have this choice. Many have little food or fewer choices. It seems a little ungrateful not to enjoy a more relaxed diet.’


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