X-Message-Number: 18493
From: "Jan Coetzee" <>
Subject: Statins lower antioxidants by 22%
Date: Tue, 5 Feb 2002 18:23:59 -0500

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Diet Complements Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs: Study 
Tue Feb 5, 5:43 PM ET 
By Merritt McKinney 

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Despite the well-documented benefits of 
cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins, a new study from Finland shows that 
diet can still make a difference in patients taking these drugs when it comes to
keeping cholesterol under control. 


In a study of men with high cholesterol, a combination of a Mediterranean-style 
diet and the drug simvastatin (Zocor) was more effective at lowering cholesterol
than either approach alone. The diet also counteracted some of the detrimental 
effects of the drug, researchers report. 

Based on the findings, the study's authors say that the importance of a healthy 
diet needs to be emphasized to patients taking statins. 

"The findings of our study emphasize the importance of diet as an integral part 
in the treatment of elevated serum cholesterol," the study's lead author, Dr. 
Antti Jula of the Research and Development Center of the Social Insurance 
Institution in Turku, Finland, told Reuters Health. 

Study after study has shown that statins decrease the risk of heart attack. 
Besides lowering levels of triglycerides and LDL, the "bad" form of cholesterol,
statins boost HDL, the "good" cholesterol. 

A Mediterranean-style diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts. It 
includes few saturated fats, but plenty of healthier fatty acids like the ones 
found in olive oil. This diet has also been shown to reduce the risk of heart 

Lowering cholesterol and the accompanying risk of heart disease does not need to
be an either/or decision, according to a report in the February 6th issue of 
The Journal of the American Medical Association. 

Jula's team compared the two cholesterol-lowering approaches in 120 men with 
untreated high cholesterol. 

During the first 4 to 6 weeks of the study, the men were randomly assigned to 
adopt a Mediterranean diet or to continue their normal diet. Then half of the 
men in each group were randomly assigned to take simvastatin each day. The 
remaining men in each group took a placebo, which did not contain any 
medication. After 12 weeks, the men taking simvastatin switched to the placebo 
and vice versa. 

Both diet and drug therapy provided benefits on their own, and these effects 
added to each other when used in combination, the researchers report. 

"Our study shows that a proper diet will give additional benefits to the statin 
treatment," Jula told Reuters Health. 

Both approaches lowered total cholesterol and LDL, with simvastatin lowering 
levels about three times as much. 

But the cholesterol-lowering drug reduced levels of three important 
antioxidants--vitamin E, beta-carotene and ubiquinol--by 16% to 22%. The health 
consequences of the decline in these antioxidants is not known and needs to be 
evaluated in long-term studies, Jula pointed out. 

In contrast to statin therapy, the Mediterranean diet only caused a slight 
decrease in vitamin E levels. 

Another benefit of a Mediterranean diet, according to Jula, is that it may 
counteract statins' potentially harmful effects on the sugar-regulating hormone 
insulin. Unlike simvastatin, which boosted levels of insulin in the blood, the 
healthier diet lowered insulin levels. 

SOURCE: The Journal of the American Medical Association 2002;287:598-605. 


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