Statin Drugs Open Us Up to Foodborne IllnessesSeptember 14, 2010
Did you know that cholesterol drugs make us more vulnerable to bacterial infections, including e. coli and salmonella? We have some other surprising news about cholesterol—and natural ways to battle those bugs.
At the same time the government says it is trying to address the problem of foodborne illnesses, it recommends drugs which may actually put its citizens at greater risk from food poisoning.
A recent study shows that the statin drug simvastatin, which the government is advocating we take to lower cholesterol levels, actually weakens our immune system and makes it difficult to fight off bacterial infections. Italian scientists found that the drug, sold under the names Zocor and Simvacor, hinders the ability of the body’s immune cells to kill pathogens, and increases the production of cytokines, which trigger and sustain inflammation. This is a preliminary finding in that it is based on lab work with human cells and also mice studies. But it is not at all surprising. In fact, it is completely in agreement with earlier research.
Surprise! High Cholesterol Protects Against Infection!
Cholesterol isn’t the ticking time bomb most people have been led to think. Believe it or not, people with high cholesterol live the longest. Dr. Harlan Krumholz of Yale’s Department of Cardiovascular Medicine found that old people with low cholesterol died twice as often from a heart attack as did old people with high cholesterol. Many studies have found that low cholesterol is in one respect or another worse than high cholesterol. A review of nineteen large studies of more than 68,000 deaths by the Division of Epidemiology at the University of Minnesota found that low cholesterol predicted an increased risk of dying from gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases.
Since food-related illnesses have an infectious origin, as do most other gastrointestinal illnesses, understanding the relationship between cholesterol and infection is vital. The University of Minnesota team followed more than 100,000 healthy individuals in the San Francisco area for fifteen years. At the end of the study those who had low cholesterol at the start of the study had been admitted to the hospital more often because of an infectious disease. In other words, either low cholesterol made them more vulnerable to infection, or high cholesterol protected those who did not become infected.
Even so-called “bad” cholesterol is needed by the body. It is oxidized “bad” cholesterol we have to worry about, and statins do not address that issue at all.
If you do contract a foodborne illness, what does natural health research suggest? Remedies worth researching include red wine (potentially very effective), resveratrol, honey (especially medicinal Manuka honey), and the old antibacterial stand-by, raw garlic. Some experts advocate drinking lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to help kill the bacteria, taking activated charcoal, or eating carrots because beta carotene bolsters the immune system. And a Japanese study showed that wasabi eliminates e. coli and other food poisoning bacteria entirely. These are just a few ideas, but they’ll get you started on your own research.