Peter Hibberd, M.D., is a doctor whose advice is based on more than 28 years of hospital outpatient and inpatient experience. He is an experienced emergency medicine physician, surgeon, and consultant. Dr. Hibberd is certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He is also a fellow and active member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, an active member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and a member and fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Hibberd has earned numerous national and international professional certifications, memberships, and awards.
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Wanted: Statin Substitute

Friday, 15 Apr 2011 04:12 PM

Question: Is there a natural, over-the-counter treatment that I can take in place of a statin?

Dr. Hibberd’s Answer:

I have found no natural, safe, statin-like, non-prescription agents that work.

However, you could try increasing your total fiber consumption to 30 to 40 grams per day and emphasizing soluble fiber intake to improve your cholesterol values. Insoluble fiber (found in wheat bran, nuts, and vegetables) contains bulk good for bowel health but will not improve your cholesterol values significantly.

Improve and optimize your weight, exercise, and manage underlying medical conditions such as diabetes. Restrict intake of fatty foods and consider a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids. In some cases, purified fish oil supplementation with Lovaza would be a good option.

Some people, but not many, can tolerate adding niacin to their diet, but it should not be taken with a statin. Side effects of flushing and discomfort can occur as doses are increased and “good” HDL cholesterol levels improve.

You also could simply take a statin and have the benefits of one agent that provides all your targets for cholesterol management while still enjoying your food without a fanatic re-invention of your diet and daily comforts.

Remember that statins block the production of cholesterol in our liver that is going to occur in those of us at risk for high cholesterol, regardless of our diet and fat intake. Statins work to lower cardiac and stroke risk by stabilizing unstable vascular plaque deposits in our arteries and modifying cholesterol levels to reduce plaque formation.

Cholesterol production is genetically determined. By blocking its production with statins, doctors provide a one-stop shop for most patients. This is precisely why statins are so wildly popular with most doctors and their patients.

Despite the reports you read about, most people do very well with these agents. Most side effects can be eliminated by avoidance of known side-effect-prone combinations, such as drinking grapefruit juice with statins; judicious use of a sister drug and CoQ10 daily supplementation; a healthy diet and physical activity program; and an astute supervising medical professional.

Statins have made the treatment of high cholesterol much easier and more palatable for most patients. Unfortunately, some people will experience side effects on medications. Likewise, some people will have problems on a certain class of drug, while others will not experience its side effects with a sister drug in the same class. My advice is to stick with proven combinations that have been shown to be both cost effective and low risk. Avoid becoming your own treatment trial; the downside may be too steep.

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