Good News & Bad News: Vitamin D vs. Statins

First, the good news. Yep, it’s vitamin D, again (thanks to Chris for the link).

New study links vitamin D deficiency to cardiovascular disease and death

Study finds inadequate levels of Vitamin D may significantly increase risk of stroke, heart disease and death

For more than a year, the Intermountain Medical Center research team followed 27,686 patients who were 50 years of age or older with no prior history of cardiovascular disease. The participants had their blood Vitamin D levels tested during routine clinical care. The patients were divided into three groups based on their Vitamin D levels – normal (over 30 nanograms per milliliter), low (15-30 ng/ml), or very low (less than 15 ng/ml). The patients were then followed to see if they developed some form of heart disease.

Researchers found that patients with very low levels of Vitamin D were 77 percent more likely to die, 45 percent more likely to develop coronary artery disease, and 78 percent were more likely to have a stroke than patients with normal levels. Patients with very low levels of Vitamin D were also twice as likely to develop heart failure than those with normal Vitamin D levels. [emphasis added]


A wealth of research has already shown that Vitamin D is involved in the body’s regulation of calcium, which strengthens bones — and as a result, its deficiency is associated with musculoskeletal disorders. Recently, studies have also linked Vitamin D to the regulation of many other bodily functions including blood pressure, glucose control, and inflammation, all of which are important risk factors related to heart disease. From these results, scientists have postulated that Vitamin D deficiency may also be linked to heart disease itself.


"We concluded that among patients 50 years of age or older, even a moderate deficiency of Vitamin D levels was associated with developing coronary artery disease, heart failure, stroke, and death," she says. "This is important because Vitamin D deficiency is easily treated. If increasing levels of Vitamin D can decrease some risk associated with these cardiovascular diseases, it could have a significant public health impact. When you consider that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in America, you understand how this research can help improve the length and quality of people’s lives."

Now for the bad news.

Vytorin trial shows little or no benefit against heart disease

For the second time in as many years, a large clinical trial has found that the key ingredient in the heavily advertised drug Vytorin provides little or no benefit in preventing heart disease compared to a competing product. The ingredient is ezetemibe, which blocks the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines. It is sold alone under the brand name Zetia or in combination with the cholesterol-lowering drug simvastatin under the brand name Vytorin. The combination of drugs has been shown to reduce cholesterol more than simvastatin alone, but that apparently does not translate into a lower risk of heart disease.

In the original trial, reported last year in January, Vytorin was compared with generic simvastatin in a group of 720 patients with a genetic disorder called heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia, in which unusually high levels of low-density lipoproteins, commonly known as LDL or "bad" cholesterol, accumulate in the blood, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Vytorin reduced the level of LDL in the blood of the patients by 58%, compared with a 41% reduction produced by simvastatin, which blocks production of cholesterol in the liver. But to determine how the drugs affected the risk of heart disease, researchers looked at the thickness of plaque in the carotid and other arteries. Thicker plaque increases the risk of plaque breaking off and producing clots that lead to heart attacks. The researchers found that plaque actually grew slightly more in the patients taking Vytorin than it did in those taking only simvastatin. Since then, prescriptions for Zetia have fallen from nearly 16.5 million in 2007 to less than 13 million in 2008, while those for Vytorin fell from 22 million to 16.5 million. The new results could lead to further declines.

And that’s not even the whole story. Turns out niacin (vitamin B3, nicotenic acid) is actually more effective than statins in improving an LDL particle profile, raising HDL, and improving cartoid artery intima thickness (arterial plaques actually increased in size under statin therapy alone).

Both Dr. Driffa and Dr. Eades have posts about this. And by the way, while the statins are a multi-billion-dollar annual fraud and scam, both vitamin D and niacin can be had for a few dollars per month.

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  1. Ian Goldsmid on November 16, 2009 at 15:38

    I am trying to find out if there is a safe (for the liver) dose of Niacin (NOT flush free) – that can be used as a ongoing effective preventative (as opposed to curing any existing issue).

    It seems that people will take 1.5 – 3 or more grams of Niacin a day to treat existing issues – but under doctors supervision – because in some small number of cases there can be liver toxicity.

    But would a lesser amount – say 500 milligrams – be effective as a preventative or just a waste of money? Have there in fact been any studies showing Niacin’s use as a preventative – or is it only useful when disease has already developed?

    In short – what ‘s the maximum dose of Niacin that could be taken without doctor’s supervision – and could be effective as a preventative.

    • Richard Nikoley on November 16, 2009 at 15:55


      Well, I have some Niacin (leaded, no no-flush) and had taken on occasion 100mg. I’m weird ’cause I actually quite enjoy the flushing.

      However, after some months of self experimentation, we’re back to our standard: CLO/fish oil, D3, and K2.

      • Aaron Blaisdell on November 16, 2009 at 16:12

        “ClO/fish oil, D3, and K2.” Looks like Weston Price hits one out of the ball field again!

      • Richard Nikoley on November 16, 2009 at 16:14

        That’s where I’m placing my bet — that, and just good food.

        I might blog that. i wonder to what extent people do less than they otherwise might do in good food prep because they are enamored of the sups they are taking.

  2. Ian Goldsmid on November 16, 2009 at 18:02


    Not concerned about Vitamin A from CLO? Dr. William Davis & one or other of the Ph.D’s at the Vitamin D Council say it can be easy to overdose to toxic limits when supplemented. Although elsewhere I’ve read that it is better absorbed/assimilated when sufficient Vit D & Vit K are included?

  3. Matt R. on November 16, 2009 at 14:04

    Statins also deplete CoQ10 from the body — another lovely side effect.

  4. Jonathan Barnes on November 16, 2009 at 19:23

    Richard…You have and do add value to my life. If you add value to my life, it is clear to me that you also add value to a lot of other peoples lives too. Having just spent 3 days in the Kaiser Hilton ICU (LOL), I find myself having a new and fresh look at my life, physically and mentally…stress management and all that. I’m pretty old, yet active, eat well, and have things pretty good and easy. Given this recent stuff on vitamin D, which you point out so well, it’s clear to me that I’m not getting all that I should. Also, your blogs on vitamin K interests me…I’m looking into that. I deeply appreciate the work you do. Your hard work, good research, and high energy go way beyond what I would do on my own. I thank you…keep up the good work.

    Jon :^)

    • Richard Nikoley on November 18, 2009 at 08:35

      Thanks Jon.

      Yep, it’s a simple prescription:

      3 1g caps fish oil (the Costco will do)
      2 1g caps cod liver oil (I live the high potency from Carlson / Vitmain Shoppe)
      6,000 IU Vitamin D3 (I use the Carlson gelcaps from Vitamin Shoppe)
      K2 (MK-4 Menatetrenone) Carlson has 5mg caps, also available at Vitamin Shoppe, 1 per day.

      I think that’s about all the supplementation most people need or should consider.

      • B. Botkin on June 1, 2010 at 12:42

        I have low HDL 30mg/dl and LDL is at 139mg/dl Triglycrerides at 167mg/dl total Cholesterol 202mg/dl. Doctor wants to put me on one Simvastatin per day. I do not want to do that. Do you think the supplements you are taking will make the difference I need?

      • Richard Nikoley on June 2, 2010 at 13:54

        I really would not know. I do things a bit different now.

        1g fish oil
        1g cod liver oil
        .5g krill oil
        4k IU of D
        1mg K2 (Now using the Life Extension Super K Complex)

  5. Dave on November 17, 2009 at 07:48

    The statin/niacin study released Sunday actually compared statins + niacin to statins + zetia (i.e., Vytorin). the study is poorly written so that fact doesn’t jump out of even the full text, but it’s there (I promise). I made the same mistake myself at first.

    This isn’t to say that I don’t suspect that niacin alone would dominate statins, just that this study didn’t prove that.

    I suspect even better than niacin is eating paleo…

    • Richard Nikoley on November 17, 2009 at 10:09

      Yea, I knew that (from Dr. Eades’ workup). I guess I didn’t clarify enough, so thanks for setting it straight.

  6. Richard A. on November 17, 2009 at 11:55


    I am not a medical professional, but from what I understand 500 mg/day of the slow release niacin is considered the upper limit for those not having their liver enzymes monitored and for fast release niacin 1000 mg/day is the upper limit.

  7. cait on November 19, 2009 at 13:01

    Very cool study on cardiovascular disease. Love milk

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