“Statin” medications are the most prescribed class of cholesterol-lowering drugs in the United States. These drugs, such as Lipitor, Zocor, Mevacor and Crestor, work by blocking an enzyme called HMG-CoA Reductase, which lowers the amount of cholesterol produced in the liver.
Unfortunately, a well known and fairly common side effect is muscle pain and weakness that can often be debilitating.
This likely occurs because in addition to blocking the production of cholesterol, these medications also block the production of important nutrients such as coenzyme Q10.
We’ve known that a deficiency of coenzyme Q10 can lead to muscle pain and that supplementation can help to reverse this side effect. A recent study sheds light on another nutrient that is closely linked to muscle pain, vitamin D.
We’ve known that vitamin D deficiency can cause both pain and weakness in the muscles, however, research had not linked vitamin D deficiency to muscle pain induced by cholesterol lowering medications…until now.
In a study of 621 patients who were prescribed statin medications, it was found that those who suffered with the muscle pain were significantly deficient in vitamin D. When the patients who suffered with muscle pain were supplemented with vitamin D, 92% of the patients saw resolution of their pain symptoms.
Other Important Things To Think About
We’ve always known about statin’s impact on coenzyme Q10 levels and we commonly recommend coenzyme Q10 supplementation in those who take a statin medication. This study, may explain why some people continue to have pain even after supplementation with high doses of coenzyme Q10 and I am now beginning to recommend vitamin D supplementation for those who are taking statins.
This makes perfect sense given the fact that your body produces vitamin D from, you guessed it, cholesterol.
When cholesterol drops, it makes good sense that vitamin D levels may drop as well. In this study, the participants were placed on the prescription vitamin D (synthetic D2) at a dose of 50,000 iu weekly. I would recommend using a natural form of vitamin D (vitamin D3) on a daily basis rather than a synthetic form in high dose once weekly.
For the general adult population I recommend 5,000 iu of vitamin D once in the morning with breakfast. If your blood is significantly deficient, you may require higher doses. Have your doctor order a blood test for 25-OH vitamin D with your next cholesterol test. I also recommend 100 mg of ubiquinol twice daily (activated coQ10).
- Transl Res, 2009; 153(1): 11-6