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Statin Drugs and Vitamin D Deficiency

The September 2009 newsletter of the Vitamin D Council weighs the scientific evidence pointing to a connection between the use of statin drugs (prescribed to lower cholesterol) and vitamin D deficiency.
John Jacob Cannell, MD, of the Vitamin D Council and a number of other medical experts, including Michael Holick, MD, and Robert Heaney, MD, cite approximately 2,900 studies that illuminate the relationship between prohormone vitamin D levels and many aspects of human health. According to Dr. Holick, vitamin D is critical for metabolizing minerals and is linked to the expression of 200 different genes. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with chronic pain, Parkinson’s disease, 17 different cancers, heart disease, cognitive dysfunction, autoimmune disorders, and muscle and bone ailments. In fact, low levels of vitamin D are linked to higher rates of mortality.
When exposed to 20 minutes of sunlight at the right latitude (e.g., not at the North Pole), our skin cells can produce up to 25,000 IU of vitamin D. Cholesterol in our skin is the catalyst for this important process. Halt or radically reduce cholesterol production (as do all statin or cholesterol-lowering drugs), and body functions dependent on cholesterol may suffer. Patients on statin drugs are known to be at increased risk for cataracts, global amnesia (memory loss) and neurodegenerative disorders including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Females may experience hormonal disorders related to inhibition of the body’s production of cholesterol. Yes, Crestor, one of the statin drugs, appears to raise vitamin D levels by some unknown mechanism, but as John J. Cannell, MD, of the Vitamin D Council wrote in its September 2009 newsletter, “that is one expensive way to raise Vitamin D levels”.
According to “Natural News” staff writer E. Huff, “[R]esearchers found a clear connection between vitamin D deficiency and muscle pain. Over 64 percent of patients with muscle pain who were taking statin drugs were also deficient in vitamin D. Those with muscle pain in general were found to be deficient in vitamin D”.
Given the evidence that as many as 77 percent of Americans are vitamin D deficient, this is clearly a public-health issue. In January 2009, William Faloon of the Life Extension Foundation wrote an excellent article on the public-health consequences of ignoring vitamin D deficiency (in 2010 the article was printed in the book FDA Failure, Deception, and Abuse, published by Praktikos Books). Faloon calls for all hospitalized patients to be tested for vitamin D status.
In the January 6, 2010, issue of Globe and Mail, published in Canada, environmental reporter Martin Mittelstaedt reported that the Ontario government is considering an end to payments for vitamin D testing, even though the Ontario Ministry of Health had asked its medical advisory committee to determine the vitamin D status of all Canadians. Dr. Reinhold Vieth, a professor of nutritional science at the University of Toronto, believes health authorities may eventually recommend 4000 IU for Canadians. The Canadian Cancer Society recommends 1000 IU daily; Health Canada advises those over age 50 to take 400 IU daily.
If a fraction of the findings are accurate, and vitamin D can help prevent 17 different cancers and lower the incidence of heart disease, stroke, chronic pain, Parkinson’s disease and immune-system dysfunction, why are public-health officials dragging their feet? This is yet one more reason to make sure the CDC, FDA, NIH, and HHS to step up to the plate and help educate the public about the critical role of Vitamin D. Sign our petition now!
Make sure you have been screened for vitamin D deficiency, and protect your health with appropriate vitamin D supplementation.

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25 thoughts on “Statin Drugs and Vitamin D Deficiency

  • donaghy

    i am on statin drugs and have pains in my muscles my doctor tells me that there are down side to all drugs but istarted to take vitamin d on my own and the pain has diminished somewhat

    • my dear! Muscle pain in Patients on statins is due to deficiency of CO-Q10. all statins block chemical passway that is responsible for production of CO-Q10. take it in form of supplement.

    • Kirk

      read “Heart Frauds” by McGee
      He compiled articles from JAMA.
      If cholesterol is a problem search “Pauling Protocol” (Linus Pauling). I can attest it works well.
      Statins are a billion a month income to pharma and they tend to hide the negative info.

  • Betty Merry

    The CDC and the FDA are becoming so much a part of government manipulation that they hardly seem relevant now, guided by political whims and dictates. Our very survival depends on the accuracy of their research and like everything else in this upside down world…Untrustworthy.

    • Kenneth Macauley

      I take 10,000 mg of D a day. Feel great. A friend of mine was on Statin’s and couldn’t work out or ride his bike because of muscle pain. I sent him a list of googled side effects. He quit and his pain is gone.

  • Rich Blumenthal

    I am delighted you are helping to spread the word on this vitally important nutrient but you made a statement that seems to be a bit misleading. Twenty minutes of sunbathing can produce a large amount of vitamin d (possibly 25,000 IU) only under a specific set of circumstances. If you have lily white skin, if you live in the far south of the US, if it’s summertime, if it’s the lunch hour, if you are nearly naked, if you are a young adult, if you have no liver or kidney issues, if it is a clear blue sky, and if you are skinny (BMI under 25) THEN you have a shot at a free megadose. But change any of those parameters and the dose goes way down. That’s a lot of planets that have to line up. For most of us, one or more of those factors simply isn’t there so supplementation becomes the most reliable way to beef up your vitamin D level. You want it to measure over 50 ng/mL based on a 25(OH)D blood test, and about 97% of Americans fall short of that. I take 10,000 IU of D3 per day and have a blood level of 55 ng/mL. My wife takes 5000 IU per day and has 70 ng/mL. If you take a multivitamin, an extra 1000 IU, eat fish, and drink fortified milk, you are almost certain to be less than optimal and highly likely to be deficient. One day the medical profession will wake up to reality but until that time it is totally up to YOU to optimize your vitamin D level to make sure you are in the group which is HALF as likely to get cancer, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and a long list of chronic diseases. And if you are on statin drugs, have deeply pigmented skin, are overweight, elderly, or pregnant, you need vitamin D EVEN MORE. Thank you, Alliance for Natural Health, for bringing this critical information to the public.

  • Karen Brown

    All the natural sources that I follow have all praised vitamin D and most make it a point of saying to take it in the form of D3. But the other day I received an email with information that they had discovered via research done by Dr. Marshall stating the complete opposite about vit. D. He stated that vit. D is not a vitamin but is a steroid and will depress the immune system. I was totally amazed and concerned how his could so drastically different from all the rest. The site that was given is http://bacteriality.com/2007/09/15/vitamind/ I hope I did that accurately.

    • Kenneth Macauley

      All I can say after reading this article is that “Big Pharma” wants you to stay chronically ill so they can make money. Think about it when is the last time they cured any thing… Polio was that in the 30’s

    • Mike Stafford

      One thing you can count on in the field of supplements and nutrition: When somebody like Marshall comes out with a statement like that just grab hold of your brain. He’s either a fool (lots of fools’ names begin with “Dr.”) or a worker for the AMA and Big Pharma. Become a member of some trustworthy nutritionally savvy outfit like this website or the one in the article – Life Extension Foundation (www.lef.org). Then start shooting questions at people who know. Eventually you’ll get a backlog of data, trustworthy websites and education. Heck you might even become an authority – this country is begging for healthy health information, just like you.
      Mike in Michigan

      • vin

        Actually my understanding is vitamin d is a powerful enhancer of the immune system. Low D levels have been linked with several types of cancer and many other ailments. One study done by Lappe at Creighton university found that in the study group cal. and vitamin d supplements reduced cancer by 0ver 60% .An excellent resource is the Vitamin d council just google it.Perhaps at least some of the walk should be in the sun. Prevention not management

  • Laszlo

    I remember of seeing a slide by one of the lecturers at a European Meeting of Cardiovascular Scientist in either 2007 or 08. According to the slide statins – while not really affecting 5-year survival of patients with CVD – significanlt increased the occurences of different malignant tumors.

  • Kristi

    Since I take a statin to lower my cholesterol, I was very interested in your article. It seems however that this article has some mis-logic in it. It sounds like they are saying anyone who takes statins to lowers their cholesterol does not produce enough Vitamin D. However, people take statins to lower their cholesterol to healthy levels, not to “halt or radically reduce cholesterol production.” Are they also saying that people who have healthy levels of cholesterol are vitamin D defficient too?
    or in other words:
    people who take statins= vitamin D defficiency
    people who take statins= lower their cholesterol to healthy levels
    people with healthy levels of cholesterol= vitamin D defficiency?

    • Lorenzo

      Statins lower cholesterol by interfering with cholesterol production. The body makes cholesterol because it needs it. I would venture that “healthy” cholesterol levels are whatever they are when the body is allowed to regulate them according to its needs. Artificially lowering these levels by interfering with essential biological processes does not strike me as “healthy” at all.

    • Me

      The issue is that if you push down your cholesterol you will have less to make vitamin D out of. Vit D is a steroid made from cholesterol in the skin.
      So, whatever your vitamin D would be before you took statins, it will be less when you are taking statins.
      Therefore, it’s more likely that you’ll be deficient if you take statins. Make sense?

      • MyronX

        It would make sense but clinical studies have shown that statin drug use does not effect vitamin D status. In fact some statin drugs increase vitamin D status. Statin drugs reduce the amount of cholesterol to a certain point. The remainder is still available to be converted to vitamin D and be used by the body for other physiological functions. Vitamin D is converted from cholesterol through sun exposure. If you do not have enough exposure to the sun you will not produce sufficient amounts of vitamin D and therefore be vitamin D deficient. There are many other factors involved in humans being vitamin D deficient such as age , skin color, inherited traits, and so on. More research needs to be done before anyone can make a definitive conclusion. The studies that have been done need to be repeated for longer periods of time and to a broader base of subjects. Biological functions of humans can’t be explained by just thinking logically, scientific testing should be done to back up your statements.

  • Rich Blumenthal

    To Karen Brown: Dr. Trevor Marshall and his associate, Amy Proal, are very vocal about their opposition to vitamin D. These two are unequivocally sincere in their efforts and do what they do in an effort to warn humanity about something they think is a menace. However, among the scientists and researchers who have spent years or decades studying vitamin D, not a single one of them can find even a shred of validity in anything they say other than this: Better information would be gained if we can study the effect of vitamin D on a person for 10 or 20 years. Most researchers are sure the benefits seen in a few years would be improved and expanded if examined over a longer period. But Marshall and Proal claim the benefits will show a reversal and what starts out as a benefit will degrade into an unfortunate disease ten years later. To every serious vitamin D researcher there is no confusion at all. Marshall and Proal are well-meaning but wrong. Possibly Trevor Marshall’s medical condition, sarcoidosis, makes him think that everyone is as hypersensitive as he is to vitamin D. But this is something you have to research yourself and “pick sides”. Only you can decide if it is better to be vitamin D deficient or not.

  • Ann Curtis

    The Marshall Protocol people state that there is a subset of people who have mycoplasmas wherein having too much Vitamin D in their bodies adversely affects them getting well. They advocate total and complete disuse of anything having to do with Vit D3, including light or sun exposure.
    As someone who was very sick two years ago and very deficient in Vit D3, I have since upped my level considerably as well as Vit C and am taking wholefood supplements of vital nutrients my body was depleted in. Since starting this protocol and eating organic foods (to include abstaining from food allergies/intolerances) and watching that I don’t put other chemicals into my body, my body is recuperating. I am on my second winter without Seasonal Affective Disorder, many of my arthritic-like/muscle/joint aches and pains have disappeared, and I am feeling better within the last 3 months than I have ever felt.
    I feel very strongly that having optimal levels of Vit D3 are needed to maintain a healthy body.

  • Nik

    Vitamin D is molecularly related to cholesterol, which is a building block for steroids, so it is fair to call it a steroid analogue. However, to equate vitamin D to the negative connotation that anabolic steroids or HRT have would be a gross mischaracterization. It would be tantamount to saying that Arlen Specter is a liberal, just because he is a Democrat. There are plenty of natural chemicals that act differently from the rest of their chemical class, like stearic acid, a saturated fat that doesn’t affect serum cholesterol levels in any way, or vaccenic acid, a natural trans-fat that actually lowers cholesterol, in particular LDL. To disparage vitamin D because it is structurally similar to steroids is, simply, scientifically irresponsible, and this is in fact what Dr. Trevor Marshall, the researcher cited in the article you linked to, is saying.
    The fact is that research abounds showing positive effects of vitamin D with regards to so many modern diseases of civilization.
    The Mayo Clinic provides a strong background on the basics of how D works: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vitamin-d/NS_patient-vitamind
    Just my 2 cents.

  • Carmen

    I take statin drugs and I live in Florida. During a routine testing, we found I was almost completely devoid of Vitamin D. I was started on 50,000 IU every other day for 12 days, then put on 2,000 IU of Vitamin D everyday. The doctor asked me, didn’t I ever go outside. I get sunshine every time I am going to or from my car, or just walking in the yard. I was baffled as to how I could be without D in my system, in Florida. This is an important news article and I thank you.

  • robert

    There is compelling evidence that statin drugs not only prevents heart attacks but also prevents prostate cancer . The FDA. is currently studying them as not only a preventive treatment for prostate cancer but also as a treatment for people who already have it.
    The positive effects they have on your heart is undeniable . Keep taking them and ask your DR. about vitamin supplements . I don’t it will make your family feel any better when your doctor tells them , the bad news is he is dead from a heart attack but the good news is his vitamin D levels are great.

  • mj

    Well if the fda is studying statins against prostate cancer for preventative as well as treatment, my husband has been on them for 10 years Lipitor. He got diagnozed with prostate cancer 6 years after being on this drug, he has a very low vitamin D which we just found out in 2010. He also has had muscle atrophy. Great doctors out there……we were in the dark about this wonderful drug that is actually a silent killer. Oh and there is no prostate cancer in his family. He was 54 when diagnosed. I am actually wondering if the drug companies are in kahoots with the fda. Seems like it is all about the money.

  • MyronX

    This is interesting because I am currently doing my masters thesis on this very subject. I have read every article related to statin drugs, vitamin D 2 and 3, cholesterol biosynthesis and the interaction between all of them. I have read most of the comments here and have found some people get it and others are a little lost. Basically this is it. Statin drugs are good at what they do. They lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels so that you can achieve a “healthy” level. They have some other beneficial affects and some not so desirable affects as well. They do lower the amount of Vit. D3 that the body produces by inhibiting its precursor cholesterol. But then again Vit. D3 hydroxylated derivatives also inhibit cholesterol biosynthesis. Statins also inhibit CoQ10 production but that can be reversed by taking the supplement. The real deal is if you are on statins they should be taken until you reach that healthy level. If you follow your Dr.s or nutritionist’s advice and get on and stay on a diet that will give you the proper amount of Vit. D3 and cut down your intake of cholesterol and triglycerides you won’t have to take the statins and deal with there negative side effects. To improve your Vit. D status you do need to get some UVB exposure in order to synthesis the Vit. D3 otherwise it won’t work out so well. Anyways good luck and good health to you all.

  • William Staton

    I had all of the classic muscle pains listed in statin side effects. My doctor said it was because of coQ10 and vitamin D deficiency from the statins. She recommended StatinHelp that is sold on Amazon. It has really helped with the muscle pains. Statin side effects are never really discussed by the doctors. I found out two years into treatment when I mentioned needing something for back and leg pain to her. Thankfully she was a runner who believed in vitamin supplements.
    I did go off statins for a while. It took weeks for muscle issues to go away and I had other strange cramp like issues during the period. Went on a vegan diet but cholesterol went back up so back on crestor. I also tried Lipitor.
    Statinhelp (statinhelp.com) is specifically for statin side effects based on the web site.

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