By now, you know vitamin D is critical for good health. It supports healthy bones and joints. It improves brain function and longevity. And it reduces your risk of cardiovascular diseases, infectious diseases, and even cancer (including skin cancer). The science couldn’t be any clearer. Yet, ironically, we face a clear and present epidemic of vitamin D deficiency in the U.S.
This epidemic stems from confusing and inadequate government dietary guidelines, poor food quality, unbalanced diets, and fear of sun exposure. Plus, we now know certain blockbuster drugs block your body’s synthesis of vitamin D.
I’ll tell you more about those problem drugs shortly. But first, here are some basics about vitamin D…
Your skin normally synthesizes vitamin D when exposed to certain wavelengths of ultraviolet light from the sun. Actually, it’s the cholesterol in your skin that is used by the cells to synthesize vitamin D. In fact, the biochemical structure of vitamin D is almost identical to that of cholesterol.
But when cholesterol levels are low, or forced low by a statin drug, the body can’t replenish the skin’s cholesterol stores. And when your skin cells don’t have enough cholesterol, they can’t synthesize vitamin D using sunlight.
This problem eventually leads to vitamin D deficiency…never a good situation. Evidence links vitamin D deficiency with an increased risk of many conditions. Including cancer, infection, depression, diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis.
A few years ago, scientists started to look at the connection between statin use and low vitamin D. In two cross-sectional studies, researchers found a link between statin-induced myopathy (muscle pain) and low vitamin D. And they suggested that supplementing with vitamin D might help reverse the statin-induced muscle pain.
Unfortunately, the studies stopped short of proving statins cause low vitamin D. But anyone who knows about basic human biology knows it’s true. When you forcibly lower natural cholesterol to abnormally low levels, you will interfere with vitamin D levels too.
Sadly, very few men and women, and not enough doctors, know taking a statin drug can cause low vitamin D. Nor do they realize statin drugs cripple your body’s ability to produce another critical nutrient, coenzyme-Q10.
Certain foods contain some CoQ10. And your cells synthesize it too. Like vitamin D, CoQ10 plays many critical roles in the body. In fact, CoQ10 is also called “ubiquinone”–like the word “ubiquitous,” which means “everywhere”–since it appears and is needed almost everywhere in the body.
First, CoQ10 goes to work in your mitochondria, your body’s energy factories. CoQ10 helps generate cellular energy in the form of ATP. Second, CoQ10 helps with cellular hydration. Each cell in your body needs water. And CoQ10 helps keep them hydrated. Third, CoQ10 appears in many other key metabolic processes.
Now here’s the problem…
CoQ10 shares the same metabolic pathway as cholesterol. But statin drugs interfere with this pathway. So when you take a statin drug, your body’s synthesis of both cholesterol and CoQ10 takes a hit.
Armed with this information, even a high school biology student can understand how statin drugs poison two of the most important and “ubiquitous” nutrients in the human body. So, of course, we can assume the statin industry knows about these effects as well.
In fact, about 15 years ago, I learned the manufacturer of the first statin drug actually took out a patent on a statin/CoQ10 combination drug. But they never marketed this combination product. I contacted them to ask why. And they told me they never comment on products they don’t actually sell.
Given this kind of drug company negligence, and the ignorance seen in too many medical practices, we’ve reached the point in health care where you need to look out for yourself. (But you already knew that or you might not be reading this column today.)
Stay off statins. Also, I recommend everyone take a daily 5,000 IU vitamin D supplement. You should also take a high-quality CoQ10 supplement. Look for a softgel that gives you 100 mg of Ubiquinol with some vitamin E to help maintain potency.
Finally, as I long suspected, new laboratory research shows the potent South African herb rooibos (red bush) works like CoQ10 in the body. It benefits your cellular metabolism and boosts your hydration.
And if spring has actually–finally–sprung in your neck of the woods, get outside and enjoy some sunshine. Let the natural cholesterol in your skin go to work replenishing your vitamin D stores.
1. “The relationship of vitamin D deficiency to statin myopathy,” Atherosclerosis 2011 Mar; 215(1):23-9