Cholesterol drugs account for some of the greatest profit sources ever developed by the pharmacological industry. Billions of dollars are brought in each year by one class of drugs – the ones called statins.
Statin drugs are known by brand names such as Crestor, Lipitor and others (most brand names end in –or). They can be very effective in reducing the blood levels of cholesterol. High blood levels of certain kinds of cholesterol are thought to be a precursor to heart disease and other vascular issues.
Although the statin drugs are hailed as miracle working products by some within the medical community, many doctors are concerned about their side effects. Liver and muscle damage are primary issues that can occur as a result of using the statin drugs. There exists an ongoing controversy about the safety of the drugs.
It is estimated that as many as 20% of patients discontinue taking their statin drugs due to being unable to tolerate the side effects. Side effects can include liver damage, muscle pain and damage, rash, flushing, nausea, gas, constipation or diarrhea, increased risk of diabetes, memory loss, confusion, concentration problems or other neurological concerns.
Many patients that are taking statin drugs may be able to consider an inexpensive alternative that has been around forever. Vitamin B3, otherwise known as niacin, is so inexpensive that there is no money to be made to pay for marketing reps to visit doctor’s offices. There is much less money available to research the benefits of this widely available nutritional supplement. In spite of this, there are thousands of pages of research readily available to researchers that indicate niacin can be beneficial in treating cholesterol issues.
Some of the research that has been done has revealed the niacin can be as effective or perhaps more effective as the pricey statin drugs that are so popular among prescribers.
Niacin is not without concerns about side effects althogether. One of the biggest obstacles to patients using niacin is the likelihood of experiencing the “niacin flush” when beginning niacin therapy.
People that begin taking niacin in therapeutic doses often encounter an immediate increase in superficial blood flow that results in a rush of blood to the face and neck called the niacin flush. In many cases the flush, although harmless, causes a temporary discomfort in addition to the readily obvious red skin coloration.
Experts advise patients to begin with much lower doses and gradually work up to the recommended dose to avoid the flush. Most people will gradually accommodate and encounter less flushing.
Estimated costs of niacin therapy vary but is around 10 cents or less per dose.
There are products on the market that are extended release preparations that result in less tendency to flush. The extended release or sometimes called time release niacin preparations are thought to be less effective in controlling cholesterol, however.
It is also possible that the extended release niacin is more likely to result in negative side effects. At least one study done on an extended release niacin product revealed several cases of adverse effects that are not typically seen ins using simple niacin.
Niacin is thought to be considerably safer than statin drugs, but can cause some of the same side effects in sensitive individuals.
Another simple inexpensive product that has been shown to help control cholesterol is red yeast rice. This is a specific product available in health food and herbal shops and some pharmacies, rather than the grocery.
Some studies have also shown that red yeast rice can be as effective as statin drugs in reducing harmful cholesterol as well as boosting levels of beneficial forms of cholesterol.
Unfortunately, there are wide variations in the quality, purity and concentration of these two natural remedies for cholesterol. It may take some research or experimentation to find the products that work best for you.
It is best to talk to your primary care physician about how to deal with cholesterol issues. Although many physicians are still uninformed about these two products or may be misinformed, many progressive physicians are beginning to look at alternative solutions such as niacin and red yeast rice. Do your own research to learn more.