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Supplement Perspectives

News Break: Should Teens Take Statin Drugs?

Editor's note: I recently wrote an article for Natural Products INSIDER on the anti-aging market, which you can read right here. What amazed me most in researching and reporting the article was that the market for these products is skewing younger and younger. And not just for cosmetics: Kids now have to take follow dietary strategies that once were employed by the middle-aged. 

So, with that said, I thought it'd be fitting to have Dr. Smith look at the issue of stains and teenage use. This is an issue where the natural products industry can make an impact, plus I like any topic that can provide a healthy debate. 

High cholesterol and triglycerides in teenagers are a growing concern among doctors, for good reason.

We already know that arterial plaques begin to develop in childhood with fatty streaks — the accumulation of cholesterol and fat inside the wall of the artery, due to vascular injury and inflammation.

However, with past generations, less refined sugar and lower rates of obesity in teenagers slowed the progression of fatty streaks into full-blown atherosclerosis, which for most adults today peaks in the mid to late sixties.

But this could change with the younger generations. Conventional doctors are diagnosing abnormal lipid profiles in teenagers. What does this mean?

It means that teens with high cholesterol today will develop full-blown atherosclerosis at an earlier age. Not only that, it also means that more statin prescriptions and even bigger profits are in the pipeline for Big Pharma and statin drug manufacturers.

Do You Want Your Teenager Taking Statins?

First off, due to their unhealthy diets and lack of exercise, all teenagers should have their cholesterol and triglyceride levels evaluated. These are risk factors for heart disease, just not the only ones — despite what the statin pushers would have you believe.

So, get your teenagers tested. It can help identify a problem early before it gets out of hand.

However, here’s what not to do: If your teen’s cholesterol and triglyceride levels come back elevated, don’t let the doctor start them on statin medications. Doctors will start doing this because, simply put, it’s the easiest way out.

In truth, giving your teen statins won’t teach them anything about proper diet and exercise and could likely result in a lifelong habit of pill-popping.

Statins should only be used in teenagers if the LDL-cholesterol level is above 250 mg/dL. In a case like that, statin therapy is warranted at least until it comes down and can be managed with diet and supplements.

Why else should statins be avoided by teenagers? Because statin drugs not only decrease cholesterol, but they also may decrease steroid hormones1…and teenagers need steroid hormones to grow and develop.

In short, there are much safer and more effective ways to manage high cholesterol in teenagers.

Diet and Supplements are Best for Managing Cholesterol

Amazingly, most teenagers can lower their cholesterol and triglyceride levels pretty easily and quickly with a change in diet and activity level. In my experience, if they can stick with this new lifestyle, lipid profiles will reverse to normal in just a few months.

Of course, “if” is a big word. But as a parent or aunt or friend, you have to get them to try to make these necessary changes — changes like increasing their soluble fiber intake, eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, avoiding sugary drinks, and exercising.

And, as they make these changes, consider adding a plant sterol, fish oil and B vitamins to their regimen.

A small pilot study recruited 25 teenagers with abnormal lipid profiles to receive an emulsified preparation of plant sterols, fish oil, vitamins B12, B6, folic acid and coenzyme Q10 for 16 weeks.

At the end of the trial, there was a significant reduction in total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, LDL subtypes and homocysteine levels. Additionally, triglycerides decreased by 17.6% but the change was not statistically significant.2

What You Need to Know About Teens and Cholesterol

Teenagers today are testing positive for heart disease risk factors, like high cholesterol and triglycerides.

The good news is that they respond well to diet and exercise. They just need help to get started — help in the form of dietary changes and supplements such as plant sterols, fish oil, B vitamins and CoQ10.

Or, you can just skip the dietary changes and supplements and prescribe them a statin drug — probably for life. What do you think is the best choice?


  1. J Sex Med. 2010 Apr;7(4 Pt 1):1547-56. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2009.01698.x. Epub 2010 Feb 5
  2. Nutrition Journal2013, 12:7 doi:10.1186/1475-2891-12-7
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