Statins: dairy products and citrus fruits could worsen side effects

Healthcare institutions have strongly encouraged the use of statins since the drug was found to reduce cardiovascular risk. But many remain concerned about the side effects of the pill, which usually include muscle pain, trouble sleeping, and feeling unusually weak. Research indicates that certain foods can increase these side effects by triggering a reaction with the drug. Dr Laura Freeman, General Practitioner and Medical Director of Plant-Based Health Online, explains what foods to avoid.

Grapefruit juice has been firmly established to interact with statins.

This is because certain classes of drugs are metabolized in the intestine by enzymes that reduce the amount of the drug that enters the bloodstream.

Grapefruit, however, contains compounds called furanocoumarins that prevent the enzyme from performing its function.

Dr Freeman explained, “Grapefruit and grapefruit juice should be avoided if you are taking statins in particular, simvastatin, lovastatin and atorvastatin.

“Other citrus fruits such as pomelo, limes and Seville organs can produce a similar effect and can also interfere with the way the body processes the drug.

“This can cause more of the drug to enter the bloodstream, making side effects more likely. “

Of all the side effects involved with statins, myopathy is considered to be one of the most dangerous because it involves damage to muscle tissue.

In severe cases, it can lead to kidney damage.


One drink that can increase the risk of this side effect is alcohol, especially when consumed in large quantities.

Dr Freeman added: “Alcohol should also be kept to a minimum and although most guidelines recommend 14 units or less per week, recent evidence indicates that the safest limit for your health is zero.

Those who exceed the recommended alcohol intake can expect fatigue, muscle pain, muscle tenderness or weakness, nighttime cramps, and tendon pain.

Additionally, consuming certain types of alcohol like wine, beer, or alcohol can adversely affect a person’s health by increasing cholesterol levels.

Studies have already established that statins can reduce the risk of a heart attack to more or less to the same degree that a fast food meal increases it.

But the cholesterol-lowering drug doesn’t suppress all of the unhealthy effects of fast food or alcohol, both of which increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

“If you are taking any type of statin medication, it is also helpful to consider what other foods might be reduced or eliminated,” added Dr. Freeman.

“For example, foods high in dietary cholesterol – like liver, squid, shrimp, eggs, chicken breast or steak.

“Foods high in saturated fat (milk, butter, cheese, cream, ghee) and trans fat (fast food, processed meats, snacks and baked goods such as pies, pastries and cookies) should also be minimized as much as possible. “

As effective as statins are, it is important to follow a cholesterol-free diet for the best effects of the drug.

Dr Freeman concluded: “While food choices are essential for optimizing cholesterol levels, it is also important to pay attention to other pillars of health.

“Regular physical activity, restful sleep and effective stress management are also important factors for cholesterol and overall heart health. “

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