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Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, December 3, 2013

Ask This Question Before Taking Statins

Commentary by W. Todd Penberthy, PhD

(OMNS Dec 3, 2013) Before taking statins, ask yourself one question. Why is it, given two people with identical environmental backgrounds, that on average one of them dies early due to cardiovascular disease? Is it because that individual has taken less statin drugs? Of course not. It is likely due to something different in their genetics, which causes differences in enzymes and levels of other proteins. This leads to differing requirements for essential vitamins and minerals.

Cardiovascular disease is largely caused by deficiencies of essential nutrients. Thus adjusting the diet makes sense. When your car breaks down, do you have the repair shop install a gadget not in the car's parts list? Of course not. We clean, tighten, remanufacture, or replace the correct part. Similarly, the body needs maintenance and some tender loving care. Statins are not one of our parts. Essential nutrients are what we need.

The reason people die of cardiovascular disease usually begins with inflammation and progressive calcification, not cholesterol levels. The correlations between inflammation, calcification and death by cardiovascular disease (CVD) are much stronger than for correlations between cholesterol levels and death by CVD (Bolland et al, 2008).

Following the guidelines of the American Heart Association (AHA) may be useful for liability and good business, but is not always useful for maintaining optimal health. To understand what's going on inside of the body, just take a look at the images of vascular calcification. In response to inflammation in arteries, plaques form. At the center of an arterial plaque sits a hard calcification that contains calcium carbonate. Around this calcified nucleus, the plaque develops with fat deposits and a fibrous cap. In many cases the plaque can be reversed with excellent nutrition.

Considering the media attention given to statins, it's quite remarkable to learn that they only reduce the risk of mortality from CVD by less than 1 percent. In contrast, in clinical trials involving over 8,000 patients over 6 years, high dose niacin (3,000 mg daily) reduced mortality by 11%. And this lowered risk was tabulated 15 years after the clinical trial ended! (Canner et al., 1986) That represents a huge improvement over treatment with statins. Recent advances in molecular biology explain how this works. Niacin's amazing sustained effect is likely due to its effect on regulating sirtuin proteins that cause long lasting epigenetic changes in the structure of DNA. This type of epigenetic modulation is known to have long-lasting effects. The nutrition you get in early childhood, or even that your parents got before you were born, can affect your genes over a long period. The data from this study implies that 3,000 mg of niacin is far superior to statins for preventing CVD death. And it only costs about 35 cents per day.

Anyone who has the risk factors for death from CVD would be well advised to consider taking up to three 1,000 mg daily doses (or, for less flushing, 12 doses of 250 mg) of regular "fast-release" niacin (Hoffer et al, 2012). It would also be wise to add 100 mg of the MK7 form of vitamin K2 and 1,000 mg flax seed oil with every dose of niacin. These nutrients reduce flushing and provide anti-inflammatory benefits. For a healthy heart, include 3,000-10,000 mg of vitamin C (Roberts and Hickey, 2011), 400-1200 IU natural vitamin E, and five cups of kale mixed with colorful vegetables and a bit of grass fed butter every day. Further, to remove calcifications, it may help to daily take two 200-400 mg doses of magnesium (citrate, chelate, malate, or chloride). This can help to dissolve the calcium deposits in arteries (Dean, 2007). None of these essential nutrients requires any prescription, and together they have tremendous advantages for health compared to a statin pill.

(Dr. Todd Penberthy is a research consultant, medical writer and one of the world's prominent niacin researchers. A list of his recent papers is posted at )


Bolland, M.J., Barber, P.A., Doughty, R.N., Mason, B., Horne, A., Ames, R., Gamble, G.D., Grey, A., and Reid, I.R. Vascular events in healthy older women receiving calcium supplementation: randomised controlled trial. Bmj; 2008. 336(7638): 262-266.

Canner, P.L., Berge, K.G., Wenger, N.K., Stamler, J., Friedman, L., Prineas, R.J., and Friedewald, W. Fifteen year mortality in Coronary Drug Project patients: long-term benefit with niacin. J Am Coll Cardiol; 1986. 8(6): 1245-1255.

Dean, C. The Magnesium Miracle. New York, NY: Ballantine, 2007.

Hoffer A, Saul AW, Foster HD. Niacin: The Real Story. Basic Health Publications, 2012.

Roberts H, Hickey S. The Vitamin Cure for Heart Disease: How to Prevent and Treat Heart Disease Using Nutrition and Vitamin Supplementation. Basic Health Publications, 2011.

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Editorial Review Board:

Ian Brighthope, M.D. (Australia)
Ralph K. Campbell, M.D. (USA)
Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D. (USA)
Damien Downing, M.D. (United Kingdom)
Dean Elledge, D.D.S., M.S. (USA)
Michael Ellis, M.D. (Australia)
Martin P. Gallagher, M.D., D.C. (USA)
Michael Gonzalez, D.Sc., Ph.D. (Puerto Rico)
William B. Grant, Ph.D. (USA)
Steve Hickey, Ph.D. (United Kingdom)
Michael Janson, M.D. (USA)
Robert E. Jenkins, D.C. (USA)
Bo H. Jonsson, M.D., Ph.D. (Sweden)
Peter H. Lauda, M.D. (Austria)
Thomas Levy, M.D., J.D. (USA)
Stuart Lindsey, Pharm.D. (USA)
Jorge R. Miranda-Massari, Pharm.D. (Puerto Rico)
Karin Munsterhjelm-Ahumada, M.D. (Finland)
Erik Paterson, M.D. (Canada)
W. Todd Penberthy, Ph.D. (USA)
Gert E. Schuitemaker, Ph.D. (Netherlands)
Robert G. Smith, Ph.D. (USA)
Jagan Nathan Vamanan, M.D. (India)
Atsuo Yanagisawa, M.D., Ph.D. (Japan)

Andrew W. Saul, Ph.D. (USA), Editor and contact person. Email: This is a comments-only address; OMNS is unable to respond to individual reader emails. However, readers are encouraged to write in with their viewpoints. Reader comments become the property of OMNS and may or may not be used for publication.

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