Do statin drugs contribute to Alzheimer’s Disease?

As many of you know, my father disappeared last July and there is still no sign of him.  I wonder if my father, who suffered apparently from Alzheimers disease, was on statin drugs.  Tom Naughton has a very sad testimony on his blog:

My dad, who was on a high dose of Lipitor for two decades, started having occasional episodes of profound confusion and temporary memory loss in his early 60s (not much older than I am now), became increasingly confused in his late 60s, and was diagnosed with full-blown Alzheimer’s by age 72.  I can’t prove the Lipitor caused his condition, but knowing what I know now, let’s just say I don’t think we’re looking at a coincidence.  As far as I’m concerned, that @#$%ing drug robbed him of the chance to enjoy his retirement, work on his golf game, travel with my mom, see my girls grow up, etc.

This is not far-fetched. Memory loss is common enough with statin drug users and there is a rising epidemic of Alzheimer’s disease.  After reading Dr. Duane Graveline’s Lipitor Thief of Memory, I believe that statins can only make neurological problems worse–including memory loss and peripheral neuropathy.  Why?  Because statins block the production of cholesterol, but cholesterol is necessary constituent of a healthy brain.  Take away the cholesterol and destroy the brain.  David Perlmutter is another physician who has written a book, Grain Brain, that damns statins.  It is hard not to believe that statins are a tool of the enemy to destroy your brain.

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The healthy paleo diet of North American aboriginals

Lean native people of the not so distant past

This week some of my friends have been sharing pictures of Alaska natives on Facebook; these pictures depict people noticeably suffering from obesity. Indeed, diabetes rate among natives is twice that of the white population, yet it was a disease that was virtually non-existent before the inundation of White staples, flour and sugar.  Natives too are realizing that they were much healthier when their diet was more traditional and contained less processed foods (CBC):

“Long time ago my parents didn’t know anything about diabetes,” recalls Flossie Oakoak, a 62-year-old Inuk originally from Cambridge Bay who has Type 2 diabetes. “When there was no white man here, there was only caribou, char. Most of the people are getting bigger and bigger.”

Along with diabetes and obesity, tooth decay had arrived among the Yupik, as I noticed one summer working in Bethel with a young man whose front teeth were rotting, a problem I’ve also seen among Africans.  But the advent of sugar in the diet of the aboriginal people around the world has resulted in dental misery.  We can also thank the Coca Cola Company for their successful sales abroad–exporting White man’s misery to the hapless native.

The lean healthy people of the aboriginal past is a major plank in the argument for the paleo diet.  Gary Taubes presents a readable account of this tragedy in Why we get fat and what to do about.  He tells how the Pima of Arizona were very healthy people before the Gold Rush and how, after the invaders came and destroyed their habitat and their wholesome food supply, the Pima began to depend on US government handouts which consisted of sugar and flour.  Since then, the Pima have suffered terribly from malnutrition, obesity, and diabetes, along with all the diseases which stem from uncontrolled blood sugars.  This includes higher rates of depression and suicide.  People leading NGO and government efforts to help native communities overcome mental illness should consider the underlying contribution of bad diet consisting of processed foods high in sugar and grains.

For natives around the world, the paleo diet would consist of returning to a traditional diet high in fat and low in carbohydrate. Indeed, fat as the major source of nutrition in the diet would make a major contribution to health, if people would also cut the sugar and starch.  This I know from my own experience, and it breaks my heart to see that the bad, iatrogenic nutritional advice of today’s conventional wisdom continues to kill people by destroying their health and depriving them of their vigour. I would urge aboriginal people to eat the fat, e.g., the pemmican and muktuk, but skip the sugar and starch.

How to poop good

I’m reading Fiber Menance by Konstantin Monastyrsky.  I first read Monastyrsky’s views at Mark’s Daily Apple:  Dietary Fiber Is Bad for Sex – That’s the Only Claim About It That Isn’t a Myth.  Monastyrsky argues that fiber is not the miracle panacea for bowel problems but instead the cause of the Western epidemic of constipation, diverticulosis, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s Disease, hemorrhoid disease, and even colorectal cancer.  Monastyrsky has convinced me.  Of course, it helps that I’ve also read Gary Taubes’ famous chapter on fiber in Good Calories Bad Calories which blows the bad science of fiber out of the water.  Monastyrsky’s case seems unassailable to me: fiber is indigestible and bulks up stools. So if you eat too much of it, in the long run your stools will become bulky, hard to pass and will begin to create bowel problems–such as the creation of inflamed hemorrhoids and diverticula.  Add to that that whole grain proteins can also cause gut inflammation in many people, and we have a strong case against grain-based fibers, which are the highest, most concentrated source of dietary fiber in the Standard Western Diet.  Doctors and nutritionists that recommend to their patients with bowel problems to eat more fiber and drink more water are exacerbating the problem.  It is an egregious example of nutritional iatrogenesis–i.e., doctors are making their patients sick.

On drinking too much water, I agree with Monastyrsky as well.  He says that drinking the recommended eight glasses of water will only deplete one’s bodily minerals, especially potassium, and will exacerbate the problems of constipation.  I have had over-hydration leading to constipation, so that I learned experientially that he’s right on this point.  While in Africa, I was drinking several liters of water because of the heat and humidity.  I started having abdominal cramps and would sit on the toilet hoping that something would come out.  Finally, I asked the school nurse if he could help me, and he said that I needed to take salt. The over-hydration and perspiration had depleted my body of essential minerals.  I started adding generous sprinklings of table salt on everything I ate, and it greatly improved my condition within a couple days.

So here is what I’ve gleaned from Fiber Menance as the best way to have good poop:

  1. Reduce fiber to what is available in green vegetables.  Avoid grain-based fibers.  When starting a lower fiber regimen, reduce fiber gradually.
  2. Eat more fat:  Fat is not a dietary demon but will make stools easier to pass (though it is also good to avoid trans-fats and too much Omega6).
  3. Make sure you have adequate probiotics:  good poop consists ca. 75% bacteria (dry weight).  Soft easy to pass stools contain little fiber.  This makes a strong case for Korean Paleo (kimchee) or German Paleo (sauerkraut) or just plain probiotic yoghurt.  There are also probiotic supplements.
  4. Don’t over-hydrate.  Drink adequate water to remain well, yet do not drink water as a cure.  It can destroy your electrolyte balance and even be fatal.
  5. Make sure you have adequate minerals in your diet: esp. salt, potassium (and don’t forget magnesium).  Doctors have also demonized salt and this too is iatrogenic.
  6. It may also be necessary to eliminate grains entirely.  Cf. Wheat Belly.

Monastyrsky says that ideally poop should appear as 4-5 in the Bristol Stool chart and one should have a bowel movement at least once a day, preferably two or three times.  Paleo people will find Fiber Menance comforting, since they necessarily have reduced their fiber intake by eliminating grains and often legumes from their diet.  But what will happen eventually is that their stools will begin to soften and pass more easily, provided that there are adequate probiotics in their gut.  Monastyrsky is uncharitable towards Robert Atkins, because often low-carb dieters suffer from constipation.  But this is not so much Atkins fault–in this case Atkins followed the standard advice and told his followers to take a fiber supplement.  The better solution is to add a probiotics, like kimchee, into the diet, and then all will come to pass.

Iatrogenic tendonitis and peripheral neuropathy: Beware of Cipro, Levaquin, and other Fluoroquinolones

I mentioned in an earlier post that my diabetic blood sugars caused my peripheral neuropathy and tendonitis.  Now I have learned that Cipro may be a contributor.  My travel clinic prescribed Cipro as a remedy for travelers diarrhea, and from about the year 2000 or so I started taking at the end of my trips to Africa.  The antibiotics in the Fluoroquinolone category, including Cipro and Levaquin, by depleting the body of magnesium and destroying cellular mitochondria, have been implicated in tendonitis and peripheral neuropathy.  The “Tendonitis Expert” calls  it “Levaquin Tendonitis”, when Fluoroquinolones have contributed to the the problem, and urges dietary supplements (especially CoQ10) to heal persistent cases.  I am working on this, by increasing the consumption of the magnesium and dietary sources of CoQ10 and by implementing a program of intermittent fasting (to reduce inflammation and to promote the production of human growth hormone).

Global News also did a scathing report on the dangers of Fluoroquinolones:

As mentioned in this report, my physician provided no warning whatsoever about the dangers of Cipro and casually said that he takes it every time he suffers from traveler’s diarrhea (he is himself a frequent traveler to developing countries).  It is so good at killing bacterial flora in the gut, the good with the bad, that some websites recommend reconstituting one’s probiotics after a Cipro treatment (I didn’t know this either).

Recently, since late August, I’ve had recurring quadriceps tendonitis in my left knee, caused in the first instance by merely rising up from a supine position.  This has aggravated my Achilles tendonitis in my left foot.  Also, I seem not to be able to shake the rotator cuff tendonitis, which continues to trouble me somewhat.  My first problems with tendonitis coincide with when I started taking Cipro.  It may have weakened my tendons and made me susceptible to injury.  Uncontrolled blood sugars and improper diet would also have been a factor but I now realize that they are not solely to blame for this debilitating and recurring condition.

Which one of these two guys should take statins? Or, Is high LDL really a danger for those on a low-carb high-fat diet?

When I realized that I had multiple symptoms of diabetes, I started to follow Richard K. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution and have attempted to control my blood sugar through an ultra-low carbohydrate, high fat diet.  I eat two eggs scrambled in two tablespoons of saturated fat, steak or bacon and sausage for breakfast, Korean soup with meat, kim chee and eggs for lunch, an avocado mixed with other salad and meat for supper, often with another low-carb vegetable.  For snacks I’ll have sugar-free cheese cake or sugar-free crust-less pumpkin pie, topped with copious amounts of whip cream and a few berries (~tablespoon) or a few nuts, boiled eggs with mayonnaise and salt, pepperoni, or other sausage.  I avoid all sugars, all grains (including rice) and all vegetables high in carbs (no potatoes, carrots or legumes).  I suppose my total carb count is between 30 and 50 gm per day and I assume that I am in a consistent state of ketosis.

My low carb high fat diet has begun to heal me.  I experience much less peripheral neuropathy, my arthritis has largely disappeared, my diabetic dermopathy is gone, and I have lost a lot of weight.  Here are the before and after pictures.

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Before December 2012

slimmer me

Today, after ten months of high fat low carb diet

Yet my doctor wanted to put me on statins because my cholesterol is very high, in her view, and needs to be brought down because I am at 10% risk of having a heart attack in the next ten years.

So here are the before and after numbers of my blood test: first number is ten months ago (American conversion in parentheses), and the second number (after the slash) my most recent test (two weeks ago):

  1. Total Cholesterol: 6.3 (243) / 9.21 (356)
  2. HDL Cholesterol:  1.0 (39) / 1.3 (50)
  3. Triglycerides: 2.34 (207) / 1.37 (121)
  4. LDL (calculated): 4.24 (164) / 7.29 (282)
  5. HBA1C: 6% / 5.5%

Here are some other markers not on the blood tests:

  1. Weight in pounds: 260 / 210
  2. Waist measurement in inches:  44″ / 36.5″
  3. Average blood sugar during previous three months (calculated from hbA1C):  7.7  (136) / 6.6 (118)
  4. Snoring has lessened both in frequency and decibels.
  5. No significant loss of lean mass.
  6. Blood pressure is now in the optimal range instead of borderline hypertension (without drugs).

My diet is healing me without the help of drugs.  The only marker that has worsened, at least in the eyes of the medical community, is LDL. Yet now my physician wants to put me on statins.  However, I refuse to go on statins, especially now that I’ve done a bit of research.  As for the blood work, the triglycerides are down 40% and the HDL is up 30%.  My HBA1C has improved, but it is still too high in my opinion, and this is likely because my liver over produces glucose (gluconeogensis), especially in the morning (dawn phenomenon), and so my metabolic disorder continues despite my strict diet.  Yet my family doctor is ill-equipped to help me with this particular marker, a true sign of metabolic syndrome and diabetes, and is only concerned to lower my LDL.  Having done a week’s worth of reading, several important facts have become clear to me:

  1. Elevated LDL is a marker only–it is not a disease.
  2. High Cholesterol or high LDL have no correlation with artery disease.
  3. High Cholesterol or high LDL are not proven causes of artery disease.
  4. The link between metabolic syndrome/diabetes and heart disease is far clearer and more convincing than any alleged link between cholesterol and heart disease.
  5. No one can answer the question of whether a person that has adopted a low carbohydrate lifestyle but has high LDL is really at risk.  No such long term study has ever been done.
  6. A person with low triglycerides but high LDL is more likely to fall into the “Pattern A”  than the “Pattern B” cholesterol.  My alleged VLDL (very low density lipids) has dropped from 41.4 to 24.2, suggesting that I am shifting from Pattern B to Pattern A.

Is my doctor not guilty of straining a gnat and swallowing a camel?  She had little concern about the true risk factors for heart disease (camel):  high HBA1C, low HDL, high triglycerides, and visceral obesity (fat around the waist); but she was ready to kill the gnat, high LDL.  While she had the results of my earlier test, she manifested not the slightest approval in my improved numbers and was anxious only about my higher LDL; and she was more worried about me than the physician who went through the numbers with me ten months earlier.  The medical profession seems to have disordered priorities.  This is clear from a look at heart risk calculator that she used. Risks factored into the equation are as follows:

  1. Age
  2. Male or female
  3. Low HDL-C
  4. Total Cholesterol
  5. Systolic blood pressure
  6. Diabetes
  7. Smoker

According to her risk assessment, I have a 18.4% chance of cardiovascular disease in the next ten years.  Using the same assessment criteria, my earlier self (see “before” picture)  had a 15.6% risk.  My loss of 50 lbs around my fat belly counts for nothing; my lower triglycerides and lower HBA1C (because I’m not “diabetic”) count for nothing.  Yet which guy in the above pictures do you think has the more likely chance of a heart attack?

Now I am mostly happy with the results of the latest tests and I am very happy with the improved state of my health.  Here are my three options going forward:

  1. Take statins to reduce my LDL.
  2. Reduce my consumption of saturated fat to reduce the LDL.  Why?  My current diet is healing me.
  3. Continue as before trying to fine tune my blood sugar issues and shoot for an HBA1C of 5.0%, Triglycerides of 100, and HDL of above 60.  Reject my doctor’s anxiety about LDL, her dietery advice and her recommendation of statins.

I found the blog of Dr. Rakesh Patel in Arizona who himself decided to low carb using the Carbnite Solution (CNS) and was feeling much better after four months, but his LDL-P had skyrocketed.  What to do?  He decided to actually test himself for artery disease, because he believed that metabolic syndrome, not high cholesterol, was its likely cause.  He therefore did not want to treat something that is not a disease.  He himself had a Carotid Intima Media Thickness (CIMT) scan before the low carb diet and then at the four month mark his improvement was remarkable.

I had my CIMT done in 2006 on the Standard American “heart healthy diet” eating low fat, higher carb. You know those espoused by the ADA and AHA. My lipids were “normal” at this time. My thickness was 0.6 mm (about the 50th percentile). I also had two small “road bumps “ (minimal plaques) at my left carotid bulb both measuring 1.2 mm. I was not happy. I also had similar findings on a study in 1/2010.

Flash-forward to June 2012, about 4 months into CNS, my CIMT showed a thickness of 0.445 mm (13th percentile) and I had the vascular age of a 16 year old! And oh by the way, the “road bumps” were gone. All the while carrying an LDL-P of over 2500 consistently for over a year. I have also had a CT Coronary Calcium score that was zero.

Some primitive people who eat a diet rich in saturated fats and low in carbs never experienced problems with heart disease (like the Masai).  Saturated fat, and the resulting high LDL that occurs in some people like myself and Dr. Patel, does not seem to cause heart disease.  A diet rich in carbohydrates marked by high triglycerides, low HDL and high HBA1C causes metabolic syndrome, obesity, inflammation and artery disease.  This is why diabetics have a much higher risk of death by heart attack.  My maternal grandmother was diabetic and died of a third heart attack.  Yet stubbornly, most doctors will not recommend high fat low carb diet because they’ve been taught to fear fat and cholesterol.

Now to answer the first question posed in the title:  Which one of these guys should take statins? The guy in the before picture or the guy ten months later?  In my opinion, neither.  The guy in the first picture was eating too many carbs and needed to stop it.  The guy in the second picture has rapidly improving health already.  Why would you want to possibly destroy that with a potentially harmful treatment of a non-disease?

Offline Resources consulted:

Anthony Colpo, The Great Cholesterol Con, 2012
Jeff S. Volek, Stephen D. Phinney, The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living, 2011.
Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health, 2007, 2008.
Richard K. Bernstein, The Diabetes Solution, 2011.