Breast cancer risk: genetics vs. lifestyle

Angelina Jolie’s choice to undergo a preventive double mastectomy because of a family history of breast cancer and a mutation in the BRCA1 gene has made news and raised important questions. Complex medical decisions like these are personal must be made on an individual basis. DNAThe appearance of this story and subsequent debate in the global media, however, brings up critical issues about the relative contributions of genetics and lifestyle to breast cancer risk. Also it begs the question, if you are indeed genetically susceptible to breast cancer, can you reduce this risk through nutrition?

The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are tumor suppressors.1 Having one of several known mutations in one of these genes is known to impair their function and produce a predisposition for breast cancer and several other cancers. There are mutations in other genes that also increase risk; however the majority of hereditary breast cancer cases are attributed to BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations. These mutations produce a substantial increase in breast cancer risk. About 12 percent of women in the general population will develop breast cancer throughout their lifetimes,  but about 60 percent of women who carry a BRCA mutation will develop breast cancer;2 women with a family history and a BRCA mutation could have a risk of breast cancer as high as 87 percent.3   This is frightening, but keep in mind that most breast cancers are not due to these mutations. The percentage of breast cancer cases that are due to BRCA1 mutations is estimated at 3.5-6.2 percent and 2.1-3.4 percent for BRCA2 mutations.3

Breast cancer is a complex disease with many contributing factors. Even those with a genetic issue can dramatically reduce their risk of breast cancer and other cancers through strong dietary decisions. Natural plant foods contain a huge quantity and variety of phytochemicals, micronutrients with a variety of anti-cancer effects: anti-estrogenic, anti-proliferative, pro-apoptotic, anti-angiogenic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. All of these different functions act synergistically to prevent the development of cancers, regardless of a person’s genotype.

For example, studies have demonstrated that vegetable and fruit consumption or an overall healthful diet is associated with decreased breast cancer risk, even in carriers of BRCA mutations.6,7 The fact that not every woman who has these mutations gets breast cancer suggests that environmental factors can have a preventive effect.  An important study demonstrated that higher cruciferous vegetable intake cut risk in half for women with a breast cancer-associated genetic mutation.8,9  This significant reduction in risk was only from the green vegetables at modest intake, it was not the the entire Nutritarian diet – a diet consisting primarily of nutrient-rich foods - designed to maximize protection with all the anti-cancer foods present simultaneously.  So even with heightened genetic risk, healthful foods are significantly protective. Since several populations around the world 25 years ago had only about one-tenth of the breast cancer rates that we had in the U.S.,10-12 it is clear that even in the context of increased genetic risk, diet and lifestyle trump genetics. 

Regardless of family history, genetic mutation, or even double mastectomy, a Nutritarian diet is essential for reducing cancer risk.

A Nutritarian diet consists of the following key foods referred to as G-BOMBS (Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries, Seeds). Unfortunately because every cancer prevention study focuses only on one variable, not the synergistic benefits that add up from the entire Nutritarian lifestyle: isothiocyanates from cruciferous vegetables13, organosulfur compounds from onions and garlic, aromatase inhibitors from mushrooms, flavonoids from berries, lignans from flax, chia and sesame seeds, angiogenesis inhibitors from beans, anti-estrogenic effects of  fiber, plus the protective effects of exercise have yet to be calculated. That said, each of these factors has been shown to be powerfully protective; for example, one interesting study on lignans followed women for up to 10 years and found a 71 percent reduced risk of breast cancer mortality in women with the highest lignan intake.14  This demonstrates dramatic anti-cancer potential from the Nutritarian approach, because this study was performed on women late in life who already had a diagnosis of breast cancer, and their lignan intake was only minimal.  In other words, even more significant protection can be assumed when these changes are much more significant and started earlier in life before breast cancer occurs.

An important point this news story has brought up is empowerment, and I want to emphasize that when faced with simple, every day choices – what to have for breakfast, lunch and dinner – all women have the power to achieve substantial protection against breast cancer. Many women can’t afford to get genetic testing, or a preventive mastectomy if they are positive for a mutation, but all women can’t afford NOT to eat a Nutritarian diet for their hearts, their brains, their breasts and their peace of mind.  

 

References:

1. Fan S, Meng Q, Auborn K, et al: BRCA1 and BRCA2 as molecular targets for phytochemicals indole-3-carbinol and genistein in breast and prostate cancer cells. Br J Cancer 2006;94:407-426.
2. BRCA1 and BRCA2: Cancer Risk and Genetic Testing. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/BRCA. Accessed
3. Robson ME: Clinical considerations in the management of individuals at risk for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. Cancer Control 2002;9:457-465.
4. Bosviel R, Durif J, Dechelotte P, et al: Epigenetic modulation of BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene expression by equol in breast cancer cell lines. Br J Nutr 2012;108:1187-1193.
5. Fustier P, Le Corre L, Chalabi N, et al: Resveratrol increases BRCA1 and BRCA2 mRNA expression in breast tumour cell lines. Br J Cancer 2003;89:168-172.
6. Ghadirian P, Narod S, Fafard E, et al: Breast cancer risk in relation to the joint effect of BRCA mutations and diet diversity. Breast Cancer Res Treat 2009;117:417-422.
7. Nkondjock A, Ghadirian P: Diet quality and BRCA-associated breast cancer risk. Breast Cancer Res Treat 2007;103:361-369.
8. Lee SA, Fowke JH, Lu W, et al: Cruciferous vegetables, the GSTP1 Ile105Val genetic polymorphism, and breast cancer risk. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87:753-760.
9. Huang MY, Wang YH, Chen FM, et al: Multiple Genetic Polymorphisms of GSTP1 313AG, MDR1 3435CC, and MTHFR 677CC highly correlated with early relapse of breast cancer patients in Taiwan. Ann Surg Oncol 2008;15:872-880.
10. International Agency for Research on Cancer, World Health Organization. CI5plus: Cancer Incidence in Five Continents Annual Dataset [http://ci5.iarc.fr/CI5plus/ci5plus.htm]
11. Ahn YO, Park BJ, Yoo KY, et al: Incidence estimation of female breast cancer among Koreans. J Korean Med Sci 1994;9:328-334.
12. Bah E, Hall AJ, Inskip HM: The first 2 years of the Gambian National Cancer Registry. Br J Cancer 1990;62:647-650.
13. Liu X, Lv K: Cruciferous vegetables intake is inversely associated with risk of breast cancer: A meta-analysis. Breast 2012.
14. McCann SE, Thompson LU, Nie J, et al: Dietary lignan intakes in relation to survival among women with breast cancer: the Western New York Exposures and Breast Cancer (WEB) Study. Breast Cancer Res Treat 2010;122:229-235.

Interview with a Nutritarian: Nancy

I met Nancy on Dr. Fuhrman’s Member Center this past year, and she’s now a totally different person than she was just nine months ago. Her enthusiasm for living life to the fullest is contagious! However, just last summer she felt like she had no life. It’s amazing what nine months of nutritarian eating can do to a person! Welcome to Disease Proof, Nancy.      

               

What was your life like before discovering Dr. Fuhrman’s nutritarian approach?

What life?? I had no life!

I barely left the house, and I had removed myself from all social functions, because I was just too ashamed of the way I looked and felt. I felt physically uncomfortable all the time; whether I was sitting in a chair, or the car, or lying in bed, my body felt awful. My feet would hurt even if I walked just a little bit. I ached from head to toe, and I was exhausted most of the time and had very little energy to do normal every day tasks. My life was on hold.  I'm not even sure how much I weighed, because I didn't have the courage to actually get on the scales when I started following Eat to Live. I waited about a week before I actually weighed myself, and I was 195.5 lbs, so I'm pretty sure I was close to 200 lbs when I started . . . and I’m only 5'2"!

Prior to following Eat to Live my weight had gone up and down most of my adult life. I was a typical yo-yo dieter; never able to maintain an optimal weight because every "diet" always came to an end. I needed an absolute, complete lifestyle change; a way of living, not some diet fad that would be tossed aside once I reached my goal weight.

 

How did you find out about it?

I’d decided to start a healthy diet in July 2012, but I knew that I needed something different than what I’d tried in the past. Previously, I had gone vegan in an attempt to regain health and reduce my weight, but that never lasted longer than a few weeks at a time. I instinctively felt that I didn’t have a complete picture of truly healthy eating. I searched online for some help and stumbled across Dr. Fuhrman's website. I devoured everything I could and purchased the books Eat to Live and Eat for Health. The knowledge I gained from reading those books, and joining the member center, was invaluable and were the missing pieces for me.

 

How do you feel now?

My life has totally changed! I’ve lost 75.5 pounds and reached my goal of 120 pounds in just nine months. I weigh less than I did in high school, and I feel absolutely wonderful! Aches and pains are gone, energy has greatly increased, and my social life is back to normal. I have a completely new wardrobe and feel good in my skin now. This is not just about vanity; it is so much more than that. I can sit on the floor and play with my grandkids and not even know I have a body. I’m at peace with the knowledge that I’m doing what's best for my health, and I feel free!

 

What are your success tips?

  • I dived into the program 100% and did not deviate from it. I followed everything to the letter, and I was determined that this would be the way I would eat for the rest of my life.

  • I completely changed my relationship with food. Initially, I stayed away from restaurants (too much temptation), and if I did eat out, I brought my own dressings with me.

  • I participated in Dr. Fuhrman’s Member Center which helped me tremendously! Reading about others’ successes and failures in the discussion forums has been extremely helpful. There were times that I needed a kick in the pants to help get me out of temptation and reading the remorse that others felt when they had "fallen off the wagon" was the impetus I needed to keep going. And of course, reading about others who had been successful convinced me that this can be done.  Receiving encouragement from the Member Center is a tool which will be useful indefinitely. I am now acutely aware that one food indiscretion has the potential to send me back into unhealthful eating, and I will use every tool I can to prevent that from happening.

 

Congratulations Nancy for making that decision to dive-in 100% for the rest of your life!

Devastating bee losses threaten the food supply

In recent years, you have most likely heard about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a mysterious and devastating loss of bee colonies in the U.S., Canada and Europe.  The first reports of these unexplained and catastrophic bee deaths began in 2006. In the 2006-2007 season, CCD affected about 23% of commercial U.S. beekeepers, and some beekeepers lost 90% of their hives. Since then, CCD has showed no signs of slowing; substantial yearly losses of bees, 30 percent or higher, have become the norm.1,2

Bee. Flickr: blathlean

In 2007, some answers began to surface. Scientists began to identify viruses in U.S. bee colonies that had suffered CCD.1 Soon, it was known that healthy and CCD-stricken colonies were plagued with numerous viruses and parasitic microbes, and seemed to have impaired ability to produce proteins that protect against infection.2,3  Scientists then began to ask whether there was an environmental factor that was causing the bees to be vulnerable to viral attack.

In early 2012, two studies published in Science implicated a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids.

In these studies, bees exposed to neonicotinoids exhibited a reduced growth rate, produced fewer queens, or  had impaired navigation and food-gathering abilities; the scientists concluded that neonicotinoids, although the commonly encountered doses may not be directly lethal to bees, could contribute to CCD in an indirect way, by harming bees’ abilities to grow, return home to their hives or get adequate nutrition.4-6 Now that several additional studies have now found similar negative effects on bee behavior and cognition, evidence that neonicotinoids harm bees and are a major contributor to CCD has grown more convincing.7-9

Neonicotinoids began to be used in the 1990s, as less-toxic-to-humans alternatives to organochlorine and organophosphate pesticides.  An important point about these pesticides is that they are usually used in a “systemic” manner; when crops are treated, the pesticides spread throughout all parts of the plant, including the nectar and pollen. Bees are exposed to these pesticides via many major commercial crops including canola, corn, cotton, sugar beet and sunflower; plus many vegetable and fruit crops.5,6,10

Bans on neonicotinoids in Europe; not in the U.S.

The pesticide industry and some scientists claim that the evidence against neonicotinoids is not yet conclusive, but it has been convincing enough for some agencies to propose bans on these pesticides as a safety measure. The European Food Safety Authority, for example, produced a report in January 2013 concluding that neonicotinoids pose unacceptable risks for bees and should not be applied to flowering crops. As a result, a 2-year suspension was proposed in the European Union, and  was passed in late April – it will go into effect December 1.11,12 Currently, France and  Germany have partial bans on neonicotinoid use.13

In March, a coalition of beekeepers and environmental interest groups filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, alleging that they have failed to protect bees and the crops they pollinate by rushing neoniconitnoids to market with inadequate review. The EPA has accelerated its schedule for reevaluating the safety neonicotinoids, however the review itself is scheduled to take another five years.  The USDA and EPA released a joint report last week on U.S. honeybee health, stating that multiple factors contribute to bee colony declines, and that further research is required to determine the risks posed by pesticides. However, the report does acknowledge , “Laboratory tests on individual honey bees have shown that field-relevant, sublethal doses of  some pesticides have effects on bee behavior and susceptibility to disease.”

What can we do?

This is a sincere emergency to our organic farming movement and to the global food supply, to lose the natural way flowering plants are pollinated.   Bees are crucial for pollination of many crops such as apples, almonds, and citrus fruits. According to the U.N., about 70% of the crops that provide 90% of human food are pollinated by bees.14 We are dependent on bees, and they are disappearing rapidly. It is alarming to say the least.

Online petitions (sign here and/or here) have been started, aiming to urge the EPA to take action before 2018 and suspend neonicotinoid use on flowering crops frequented by bees as a safety precaution.  You can also take action at home.  Since wild bee populations are also declining, in part due to loss of habitat, you can help by providing bees with new habitats. You can plant a garden of vegetables and plenty of bee-friendly flowers, or even become a backyard beekeeper (find information and resources here and here). Additionally, by purchasing local and/or organic produce and eating primarily unrefined plant foods, you avoid monetarily supporting the largely genetically modified crops (corn, canola, sugar beets, etc.) that neonicotinoids are primarily used on.

 

Image credit - Flickr: blathlean 

References:


1. Grant B: Culprit of bee woes identified? 2007. The Scientist. http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/25405/title/Culprit-of-bee-woes-identified-/. Accessed May 9, 2013.
2. Runckel C, Flenniken ML, Engel JC, et al: Temporal analysis of the honey bee microbiome reveals four novel viruses and seasonal prevalence of known viruses, Nosema, and Crithidia. PLoS One 2011;6:e20656.
3. Grant B: Bee calamity clarified. 2009. The Scientist. http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/27605/title/Bee-calamity-clarified/. Accessed May 9, 2013.
4. Richards S: Pesticide Problems for Bees. 2012. The Scientist. http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/31886/title/Pesticide-Problems-for-Bees/. Accessed May 9, 2013.
5. Henry M, Beguin M, Requier F, et al: A common pesticide decreases foraging success and survival in honey bees. Science 2012;336:348-350.
6. Whitehorn PR, O'Connor S, Wackers FL, et al: Neonicotinoid pesticide reduces bumble bee colony growth and queen production. Science 2012;336:351-352.
7. Gill RJ, Ramos-Rodriguez O, Raine NE: Combined pesticide exposure severely affects individual- and colony-level traits in bees. Nature 2012;491:105-108.
8. Williamson SM, Wright GA: Exposure to multiple cholinergic pesticides impairs olfactory learning and memory in honeybees. J Exp Biol 2013.
9. Palmer MJ, Moffat C, Saranzewa N, et al: Cholinergic pesticides cause mushroom body neuronal inactivation in honeybees. Nat Commun 2013;4:1634.
10. Grossman E: Bee protection: US in spotlight as EU bans pesticides. 2013. Guardian Environment Network. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/apr/30/bee-protection-us-eu-bans-pesticides. Accessed
11. Flores G: A Political Battle Over Pesticides. 2013. The Scientist. http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/35058/title/A-Political-Battle-Over-Pesticides/. Accessed May 9, 2013.
12. Cossins D: Europe to Ban Neonicotinoids. 2013. The Scientist. http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/35355/title/Europe-to-Ban-Neonicotinoids/. Accessed May 9, 2013.
13. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Colony Collapse Disorder: European Bans on Neonicotinoid Pesticides [http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/about/intheworks/ccd-european-ban.html]
14. Jolly D: Europe Bans Pesticides Thought Harmful to Bees. 2013. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/30/business/global/30iht-eubees30.html?_r=0. Accessed

 

Tags:

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful Moms out there!  Whether you are called Great Grandma, Grandma, Mom, or Mommy we honor all of you this special day! 

I thought it would be inspirational to feature a new mom, Katie, that I met a couple of years ago on Dr. Fuhrman’s Member Center.  We eventually became Facebook friends, and then I finally got to meet her in-person last summer at Dr. Fuhrman’s Health Getaway on Amelia Island.  I’ve been so impressed how she’s radically changed her eating habits and now enables her young family to eat for the best health possible too.  [In fact, she even went on to become a certified nutritional trainer through Dr. Fuhrman’s NET program!] When pictures of her relatively recent, second pregnancy started showing up on Facebook, she glowed with health and vitality!  It’s amazing what eating for health can do to a young woman’s life.  Welcome to Disease Proof, Katie.

Katie - before and after

What was your life like before discovering Dr. Fuhrman’s nutritarian approach?
I ate a very unhealthy diet before learning about Dr. Fuhrman. My favorite foods were things like pizza and chocolate. I was a vegetarian for a few years; but a very unhealthy one. Since I was slim I figured I was healthy enough.

I always had terrible allergies and also struggled with sinus issues. A few years before becoming a nutritarian an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor told me I would need to have surgery to alleviate my severe sinus infections. I also had debilitating migraine headaches. Finally, I also developed severe and painful cystic acne when I was around 18 which continued into adulthood.
 

How do you feel now?
I feel so much better now it is amazing. I didn't know how bad I felt until I realized how good I could feel. My allergies, sinus issues, migraines and acne all resolved after becoming a nutritarian.  And I have more energy and am able to think more clearly now.


Since you weren’t a nutritarian yet during your first pregnancy, did you notice a difference between the two pregnancies, labor and delivery, and postpartum recovery time?

Towards the end of the pregnancy with my first daughter my mom gave me a copy of Dr. Fuhrman’s book, Disease Proof Your Child.  It completely changed my perspective on nutrition.  Each of my pregnancies were uncomplicated, but I had gained 15 pounds more during my first pregnancy than my second.  I also had horrendous heartburn with my first, and just mild heartburn with my second.

With my first, I went two weeks past my estimated due date and had to be induced.  The labor was very difficult, and my recovery was rather slow.  With my second daughter I went into labor naturally two days after my due date and overall it was a wonderful, drug-free experience.  My recovery time seemed to be much easier as well.  


Do you have any success tip(s) to share with others; especially to young mothers of small children?Smoothie

  • The most important factor to changing my way of eating was learning as much as I could about the science behind Dr. Fuhrman's recommendations. I spent hours poring over the information in Dr. Fuhrman's books and on his Member Center.
  • We keep meals very simple at our house and cook large batches of soups over the weekend so we don't have to cook much during the week. I also like to make green smoothies or micro salads so I can get large amounts of greens in quickly while taking care of my kids.

 

 

 

Katie’s favorite micro salad: 

4 cups chopped kale

2 cups mixed greens

2 cups chopped green or purple cabbage

3 medium carrots, chopped into chunks

1 apple, chopped into chunks

Place all ingredients in a food processor (you may have to process each ingredient individually depending on the size of the container) and process to desired consistency. Top with beans and a nut based dressing.  Enjoy!           

In a nutshell, what has nutritarian eating done for you and your young family?

It has changed me and my family forever. My husband and I will definitely eat this way for the rest of our lives, and we hope our daughters will continue to as well. My 3-year- old loves the food she eats and has been healthy her whole life. She’s never had an ear infection or needed antibiotics. I'm incredibly grateful to Dr. Fuhrman for this life-changing information and to everyone on the Member Center for sharing such personal and inspiring experiences. I'm also very thankful to my mother for giving me Disease Proof Your Child and for providing a wonderful example of what it means to eat to live.  I also want to thank my husband for all of his support who, despite his initial hesitation, has fully embraced nutritarian eating.

  Katie's family

Katie, you are truly a wonderful role model for all mothers, young and old!  Congratulations on radically improving you and your family’s health by choosing the nutritarian diet-style.

 

Blessings to all mothers today, and keep up the great job of leading your family’s health destiny!  

What is it Like to be Free from Food Addiction?

Felicia was recently interviewed on Disease Proof. [click here to read her interview]  She’s lost over 160 lbs in less than a year, and she’s still losing!  I asked her if she’d be willing to share what her life is like now that she's free from food addiction, and she wrote the following. May it inspire you with renewed hope and encouragement in your journey to live in the best health that’s possible!

 

What is it like to be free from food addiction?

by Felicia Ricks

 

The definition of addiction according to the dictionary is “a compulsive physiological and psychological need for a habit forming substance.”

I never thought of food as a habit forming substance, but I always thought of it as a necessary requirement for the body to survive. It wasn’t until I heard Dr. Fuhrman talk about toxic hunger that I came to the realization that I had a food addiction and had a compulsive physiological and psychological need for a habit forming substance.

When I initially started on Dr. Fuhrman’s nutritarian program, I experienced toxic hunger and I didn’t feel very well for several days. I asked myself, “Is this how drug addicts feel when they’re going through detoxification? This doesn’t feel good at all!” Although, I was experiencing some withdrawal symptoms I was determined to break the vicious cycle of food addiction by not eating the foods that caused the addiction. After enduring the “not so good days” I noticed that I wasn’t jittery, the headaches were non-existent and I didn’t feel the desire to put a Snickers bar in my mouth. I knew I was on the road to recovery.

Being free from my food addiction was an answered prayer because one of my prayers was to be self-controlled in my eating habits. However for many, many, years I was never able to consistently maintain self-control. It wasn’t until I totally committed to eating the foods that were originally intended for our bodies to absorb and digest such as, green vegetables, berries, onions, mushrooms, beans, seeds/nuts (GBOMBS) and COMPLETELY eliminated the refined, sugary, processed and synthetic foods and drinks, that I began to feel spiritually and physically liberated. I feel as though I am no longer bound and enslaved by the self-inflicted chains of food addiction and I am no longer defiling my body. I also feel as though a weight, figuratively and literally has been lifted from me and now I can honestly and unequivocally say that, “I am free indeed!”

Thank you Dr. Fuhrman for spreading the message and informing people about the benefits of healthy nutrition. Also for holding fast to the statement by Hippocrates, “Food shall be your medicine and your medicine shall be your food.”

 

“It will take strength. It will take effort. But the pleasure and rewards that you will get from a healthy life will be priceless.”
-Dr. Fuhrman

 

 

 

 

 

image credit:  flickr by Marin Cathrae

Cholesterol-lowering drugs get more risky: link to kidney injury

Statin drugs inhibit an enzyme that is crucial for the production of cholesterol; they are the most widely taken drugs among adults in the U.S, and their use has expanded dramatically in recent years.  About 20% of Americans age 45-64 and 45% of those 65 and older take statin drugs.1 Between 1988 and 2006 the use of statin drugs in U.S. adults over 45 increased by a factor of 10.2

Pill bottle. Flickr: melloveschallah

The benefit-to-risk ratio of giving statins to individuals with elevated cholesterol but no prior history of coronary heart disease remains controversial among many scientists and physicians.3-6 It is especially worth questioning the risk of side effects when there is a safe, effective alternative to these medications – excellent nutrition and exercise – that carries only health benefits along with its cholesterol-reducing efficacy.

Of course, dropping elevated cholesterol back into the favorable range is beneficial, but we know that medication is not required to achieve this result. Furthermore, we now have evidence that statins expose people to unnecessary risks. A 2010 analysis of medical records in the U.K. found increased likelihood of liver dysfunction, impaired muscle function, acute kidney injury and cataracts during the first five years of statin use. Moreover, two meta-analyses in 2009 and 2010 reported a moderately increased risk of diabetes in statin users.

Now, new data has confirmed the connection between statin use and acute kidney injury. Acute kidney injury is a sudden loss of the kidneys’ filtering capability; the normal functions of removing waste products from the blood and balancing fluid and electrolytes cannot be carried out. Acute kidney injury is a serious condition that can lead to permanent damage or loss of kidney function or even death.  In the current study, high-potency vs. low-potency statin doses were compared (high potency was defined as minimum 10 mg rosuvastatin, 20 mg atorvastatin, or 40 mg simvastatin).  The study examined Canadian healthcare records to investigate a total of 2 million patients who had been newly prescribed a statin, and the incidence of hospitalization for acute kidney injury during early statin use.  Those who began taking high potency statins had a 34% increased risk of being hospitalized for acute kidney injury within the first six months of statin therapy compared to those on lower doses.  Although this study did not evaluate the risk associated with low-potency statin use vs. no statin use, the data does establish that statin drugs may have harmful effects on the kidney.7

The reason for the link between statins and acute kidney injury remains unclear, but there are preliminary theories. Some scientists have hypothesized that muscle breakdown associated with statin use may be responsible, since this leads to the release of kidney-toxic muscle components into the bloodstream. Another hypothesis centers on oxidative stress due to statin-associated diminished production of coenzyme Q10, one of the body’s most powerful natural antioxidants.7

Never forget: all medications have side effects, many of them serious; we must exercise appropriate caution before taking medications. Statin drugs are a ubiquitous treatment for a preventable condition; elevated cholesterol can be easily reduced with lifestyle measures in almost all cases.

If you have elevated cholesterol levels, you have a choice. You can take a statin drug that will expose you to increased risk for diabetes and the potential for damage to your liver, kidneys and muscles; or, you can make dietary changes that will not only reduce cholesterol but blood pressure as well, and at the same time reduce your risk of cancer, diabetes and dementia. Which will you choose?

To learn more about the preventive and therapeutic potential of a Nutritarian diet, read my book Eat For Health.

 

References:

1. Health, United States, 2011: With Special Feature on Socioeconomic Status and Health. In. Hyattsville (MD); 2012: Health, United States].
2. Latest Report on the Nation's Health Shows Growing Medical Technology Use. 2010. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/10newreleases/hus09.htm. Accessed May 2, 2013.
3. Cholesterol Treatment Trialists C, Mihaylova B, Emberson J, et al: The effects of lowering LDL cholesterol with statin therapy in people at low risk of vascular disease: meta-analysis of individual data from 27 randomised trials. Lancet 2012;380:581-590.
4. Ray KK, Seshasai SR, Erqou S, et al: Statins and all-cause mortality in high-risk primary prevention: a meta-analysis of 11 randomized controlled trials involving 65,229 participants. Arch Intern Med 2010;170:1024-1031.
5. Moyer MW: The Stats on Statins: Should Healthy Adults Over 50 Take Them? 2012. Sci Am. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=statins-should-healthy-adults-over-50-take-them. Accessed
6. Green LA: Cholesterol-lowering therapy for primary prevention: still much we don't know. Arch Intern Med 2010;170:1007-1008.
7. Dormuth CR, Hemmelgarn BR, Paterson JM, et al: Use of high potency statins and rates of admission for acute kidney injury: multicenter, retrospective observational analysis of administrative databases. BMJ 2013;346:f880.