I swear I don’t mean to pick on statins. There’s just so much about them in the news right now. A colleague of mine pointed me to an excellent website that puts findings on prescription drugs into perspective, and I think it’s important information to share.
Most studies showing benefits of drugs (or other substances), tout the results showing that taking the drug (or other substance) changes something more than would be expected from chance alone. For example, a positive study would be one showing that taking statins lowers cholesterol more than taking a placebo pill would do. In this case, the idea is that lowering cholesterol reduces heart-disease risk, and that statins therefore help prevent heart disease.
What the drug studies often don’t advertise, however, is how many people need to take the drug to see any positive or negative effect on the larger diseases the treatment is intended to address. This is called the “numbers needed to treat,” and can be very telling. The website my colleague recommended looks at numbers needed to treat for different classes of drugs.
Do statins help prevent heart disease? The numbers are not encouraging: (more…)
How’s this for a catch 22: Statin drugs are prescribed to lower cholesterol levels in the body in an effort to reduce risks from heart disease, but end up raising risks for the very condition they’re intended to prevent. New research finds the drugs speed up calcification of the coronary and aortic arteries — basically like building bone around blood vessels that need to flex as your heart beats. That increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. The effect is more pronounced in people with Type II diabetes — and statins increase the risk of developing diabetes. What to do? If you have high cholesterol, talk with a professional about supplements and dietary changes that can help you get back into balance naturally. Some of the solutions may surprise you! (Via GreenMedInfo.com.)
As some of you may know, I am slowly — glacially, even — working on a book about gardening with medicinal plants. Looking out at the frost-covered garden this morning for inspiration for any hint of green, I decided to start working on my olive (Olea europa) monograph.
Arbequina olive (Olea europea) in flower.
Before my breakfast (which includes copious quantities of olive oil — yum!), I went looking through my physical library for something beyond olive oil. Because, really, I’m unlikely to actually press the olives from my tree. And besides, like so many other garden medicines, there’s healing value in other parts.
In olive’s case, the leaves are powerhouses of phytochemicals (more…)
The cholesterol-lowering statins drugs are among the most widely prescribed. By lowering cholesterol, proponents say, drugs such as Crestor and Lipitor help reduce the risk of killer strokes and heart disease. A recent study published in the British Medical Journal considered the benefits and risks of the drugs, and came up with some interesting findings. The researchers considered data on more than 2 million English patients. Among the women, they found 271 fewer cases of heart disease and eight fewer cases of esophageal cancer for every 10,000 high-risk women treated with the drugs. On the flip side, however, they found high levels of side effects: 74 extra cases of liver dysfunctions, 307 cases of cataracts, 23 cases of acute renal failure and 39 cases of muscle pain and weakness. The numbers were similar among male patients, although the men experienced more of the muscle side effects. (Via Reuters.)
Want to lower your cholesterol? It’s not just about the fat. Turns out sugar — added to processed foods and sweetened drinks — is a big culprit. New research in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association studied 6,100 people to see how sugar intake affected cholesterol levels. They found people consuming the most sugar generally had higher triglyceride (blood-fat) levels, along with lower levels of protective HDL cholesterol. They also found sugar intake has risen nearly 50 percent over common consumption in 1977-78. Sugars already are linked to obesity, hypertension and other conditions known to increase heart and stroke risks. These new finding add one more reason to cut down. (Via USA Today.)