Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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February 03, 2009

Statins and Sprints: News Alert

By Worker Bee
25 Comments

You’ve probably noticed that we like to revisit subjects, no matter how exhaustive our prior analysis may have appeared. We do this for two reasons – to foster a running dialogue on a constantly evolving idea; and to make sure the Primal Blueprint remains supported by hard science.

Mark has always talked about his affection for the beach sprint (or any type of sprint) as a quick, intense, effective cardio workout in line with the type of daily activities Grok performed. He’s also conveyed his unease with our increasing reliance on Big Pharma for our health and wellness needs. Today’s post deals with two recent studies of particular interest and relevance to these topics. We found them quite interesting, and we think our readers might too.

Regular Sprints Boost Metabolism

A team of Scottish researchers, interested in the metabolic effects of high intensity interval training (HIIT), examined a group of sixteen sedentary male patients (abstract and full study – PDF). They plopped them down on stationary bikes and had them do interval sprints for no more than a few minutes at a time. The researchers acknowledged the current mainstream guidelines (low-moderate intensity exercise for several hours per week) as effective, but unrealistic for busy people without much time for exercise. But what started as a simple look at intense interval training as a temporary holdover for the time-strapped soon became a revelation: HIIT appeared to actually be more effective at raising metabolism and “improving insulin action and glucose clearance,” leading researchers to conclude that they “do not yet understand the traditional connection between exercise and diabetes.”

Perhaps more research of this ilk would help, and we’ll be sure to highlight it as it comes out.

Statins’ Adverse Effects Documented

You know by now that we don’t care for statins. We find them unnecessary and overly restrictive, and they generate a lot of money for the wrong reasons. Oh, sure, statins lower cholesterol by retarding our bodies’ natural cholesterol-producing mechanisms (while other drugs reduce our ability to absorb dietary cholesterol), but they operate under an inherently flawed assumption: that cholesterol is the devil.

As we’ve discussed before, cholesterol is necessary for proper functioning of the body. Universally-praised HDL transports excess cholesterol to the liver when the body’s through with it; universally-maligned LDL transports cholesterol from the liver to the tissues. All LDL gets the bad rap, but it’s not that simple. The lighter, billowy LDL is quite benign, but the smaller, denser LDL particles are the ones that have been linked to heart disease (unsurprisingly, these tiny LDL particles are caused by a diet high in simple carbs). But as is Big Pharma’s tendency, their solution is to just carpet-bomb the whole lot. Their statins attack the symptoms, but they don’t get to the root of the problem.

As with any instance of overwhelming firepower directed at the symptoms, rather than the true cause, there’s a lot of collateral damage. Statins, we’re finding, wreak considerable collateral damage – muscle problems, cognitive issues, pain and numbness in the extremities, tendon problems, and blood glucose elevations, to name a few.

Now they have it on paper – entombed, published, unavoidable – that statins, those vaunted anti-cholesterol tablets that comprise so many of our parents’ and grandparents’ pill boxes, might be causing more damage than they’re worth (gee, really?). The paper (co-authored by the UCSD Statin Study director) suggests that statin-induced damage to the body’s mitochondria is the true cause of the commonly-reported side effects of statin use.

Mitochondria are pretty damn essential. Thanks to Coenzyme “Q10,” (CoQ10), mitochondria produce energy and fight free radicals. Unfortunately for statin-users, CoQ10 travels along the same pathway as some types of cholesterol. Following its scorched-earth policy to a tee, statins block that pathway, meaning CoQ10 can’t get through to help mitochondria destroy free radicals. More free radicals running rampant means more inflammation – which is the true cause of heart disease.

So, do the study’s authors conclude that statins might actually increase the risk of heart disease? Not quite. In the authors’ own words, statins may “protect against the very same problems, in some people, to which they may predispose others.” It’s muddled language, but it’s pretty clear to us that relying on statins to reduce the risk of heart disease is – to be diplomatic – rather counterproductive.

Further Reading:

10 Rules of Aging Well

The 7 Habits of Healthy (Thin) People

Oprah Hits 200 Pounds. Again.

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25 Comments on "Statins and Sprints: News Alert"

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Pete
7 years 7 months ago

Mark,
Great post! It’s interesting to me to see how, as many people begin to look to lifestyle to cure their ills, rather than to pharmaceuticals to help them maintain their unhealthy lifestyles, the “needs” for these medicines begin to go away.

For all of the problems I have with the show “The Biggest Loser,” I think the fact that they are showing their contestants need for prescription medications going away this season is a huge boon.

Ryan Denner
7 years 7 months ago

Hey Mark-

2 Questions on the sprints (and I enjoy them as much as you do – there is just something about running really hard and fast):

1. How many times per week should someone do these?

2. I understand that running sprints may be more primal, but what about sprints in the pool, or on the bike? Do they have the same effect physiologically? Might they be even better for you because of the low impact?

Thanks in advance…

JE Gonzalez
7 years 7 months ago

Yep. Your theory just becomes more relevant everyday. But always remember, unlike Ancel Keys and his cronies, the object is trying to disprove your own theory before making it dogma.

David at Animal-Kingdom-Workouts

In the past, I’ve done Hill Sprints in the past, and have always found them to be really effective. (I can’t do them now, though, as it’s winter in Vancouver). This study doesn’t surprise me at all.

Same thing with the Statins. I thought about their being a lot of collateral damage when you attach the SYMPTOMS was bang on. That they actually attack the mitochondria is pretty scary.

– Dave

Dave
Dave
7 years 7 months ago

Mark I’d be interested in your take on products like Promise Activ SuperShots that supposedly remove cholesterol from your body. I’ve seen their commercials a few times now. Seems like another attempt at treating the symptoms instead of the cause.

Is it reasonable to be concerned that people who don’t have high cholesterol could be adversely impacted usng a product like this?

Chris - zen to fitness
7 years 7 months ago

Excellent news. Gives me even more confidence in sprints, they are my workout of choice when I am pushed for time but need to get outside. 5-7 sets of hill sprints plus some pushups/jumping squats and I’m done!

Fate
Fate
7 years 7 months ago

Speaking of CoQ10. I know there’s a big market for supplementing CoQ10. Currently the only supplements I take are a daily multi-vitamin, fish oil, vitamin D, and ZMA. But as a hard-training athlete, is there any benefit to CoQ10, or anything else for that matter?

Holly
Holly
7 years 7 months ago

Sprinting on the beach is one of my favorite things. I seem to go super slow because of the sand, but geez is it a good workout.

Ellen
Ellen
7 years 7 months ago

Hey David at AKW!

“In the past, I’ve done Hill Sprints in the past, and have always found them to be really effective. (I can’t do them now, though, as it’s winter in Vancouver). This study doesn’t surprise me at all.”

Do the sprints with snowshoes. Awesome awesome workout. With snowshoes, I run fast in the snow for about 50 steps, and then walk for about 30 and repeat. Works just as well as Mark’s beach sprints, I bet.

Mark Sisson
7 years 7 months ago

Fate, I have supplemented with CoQ10 for 15 years. It’s one of those critical nutrients you tend to deplete with age, stress, activity, etc, but you just don’t get much in food. My Damage Control Master Formula was originally designed to provide high levels of hard-to-get antioxidants and other phytonutrients to hard-training athletes.

Tom Parker - Free Fitness Tips
7 years 7 months ago

Hey Mark, Informative post as always. I didn’t know about the different types of LDL cholesterol until reading this.

Chris
Chris
7 years 7 months ago

One of the researchers turned up on a forum to support his paper. But, he appears to be a ‘calories in = calories out’ kind of guy:

http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=339222&v=1#x4997900

Mark Sisson
7 years 7 months ago

Ryan, sprints of all types will work. Swimming isn’t quite as productive as running, cycling or even elliptical sprints for these short intense bursts, but if swimming was all you had, you’d still benefit. Once a week is probably enough for running (mostly because if you do it right, it’s not as easy to be fully recovered “injury-preventionwise” as it is from the others). Someone really fit could probabaly do once every 5 days.

Sharon
Sharon
7 years 7 months ago

Hey Mark….I stopped taking Lipitor on Jan 15th…I feel good like I did a good thing for my body…been on them too long and felt guilty the whole time…geeez….Liked your article…

Dan Abshear
7 years 7 months ago
Facts Believed To Be Qualities Of All Statin Medications: Statins are a class of medications specifically prescribed to lower LDL- one of five lipid parameters of a person’s lipid profile, which is alto the name of the blood test to measure these parameters. They are known as statins, as all of these types of medications end with the letters, statin. There are about 6 available statins to choose for lipid management as needed- with three that are combination drugs that have a statin in these combinations, I believe. There are other classes of medications for lipid management, such as bile… Read more »
Trinkwasser
Trinkwasser
7 years 7 months ago
My experience, which is not untypical: simvastatin more or less halved my LDL but did nothing to affect my abysmal HDL and trigs, which I now realise were the result of the Heart Healthy diet and got significantly worse when I was told to further reduce my fat consumption and eat more carbs. Switching to a low carb diet slashed my trigs to 10% of their original number and doubled HDL. My LDL increased slightly but my GP wasn’t fussed, as she appears to have read some of the same stuff the rest of us have read. She was a… Read more »
Denis
6 years 3 months ago

Statins suck. If everyone slowly but surely changed their lifestyles to be more grok-like, maybe the health care crisis would shrink proportionally with peoples’ waistlines. As an xray tech, maybe I’d be dealing more with the occassional fracture instead of chests and bellies on patients who need to be lifted with cranes.

Doc in Chicago
5 years 11 months ago

Agree with dietary and exercise approaches as primary prevention (before an MI) first. Always. Many patients do NOT need statins.

Nevertheless, many people fail to make appropriate lifestyle changes or have genetically based significantly abnormal LDL levels despite dramatic lifestyle changes. For them, and especially for those with already established blood vessel disease, statins have demonstrated benefits in randomized studies showing patients live longer and have fewer cardiovascular events. Unlike much of medicine, this is unambiguous and unassailable for these specific contexts. A brief lay article:
http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1878543,00.html

Mark Sisson
5 years 11 months ago

@Doc in Chicago, how come the link you provide is to a Mayo Clnic article on the benefits of statins? I disagree with your assessment. The Time article references a “study” where 30 fewer people out of a study group of 8,901 high risk people had an “event” (meaning a heart attack or stroke) and then went on to claim that it represented a reduction in risk of about 50%. That’s relative risk in a high risk group. I hardly call that unambiguous and/or unassailable.

trackback

[…] the benefits to having healthy, abundant mitochondria, and in the past, I’ve alluded to the damaging effects of statins on mitochondrial function. All good, yeah, but a couple brief paragraphs in the middle of a Monday post aren’t enough. […]

Joe
Joe
4 years 10 months ago

My question is regarding coQ10.

I am going to turn 40… am in good health… exercise regularly and have been primal for about 2 years.

Here are my two questions…

How much coQ10 do I require?

What is the deal with all the coQ10 supplements using seed and or soybean oil as the vehicle? I can not find one using say olive oil. Any advice on this? Or does it not matter?

Your thoughts?

Thanks,
Joe

trackback

[…] which is an over-the-counter statin analog (statin drugs came from it, actually), with all the potentially negative effects of Lipitor and Crestor. Go ahead and eat your garlic, add oregano to soups and stews, use coconut oil like […]

trackback

[…] which is an over-the-counter statin analog (statin drugs came from it, actually), with all the potentially negative effects of Lipitor and Crestor. Go ahead and eat your garlic, add oregano to soups and stews, use coconut oil like […]

Ray
Ray
3 years 6 months ago
Just got results of my Calcium Heart CT Scan with calcium accumulation in 1 coronary artery and the Dr wants to go down the Statin road.. Back Ground 53 yrs old Male I have been on daily asprin (325mg) for years and more or less been on a carb restricted diet for a couple of years. About 4 weeks ago started a Very low Carb routine (less than 50gm / day) increasing protein & fat intake. Dropped ALL grains & stopped using beans as my carb source. Yes i do have the Primal Blue Print as well as several other… Read more »
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1 year 10 months ago

[…] Sprints suck but they work.   More 4 x 400 repeats? […]

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