Thom Graves Media

Recent findings have some researchers and health professionals calling statins the next aspirin. Some 25 million people worldwide take these enzyme inhibitors to lower cholesterol, creating a nearly $20 billion (US) market in the process. But just as aspirin has expanded its repertoire beyond headaches, statins are showing promise in treating ailments such as Alzheimer disease, multiple sclerosis, and osteoporosis, and some researchers think they could prevent cancer.

Nevertheless, dangerous side effects temper this enthusiasm; a few patients have experienced rare muscle degeneration.1 And while some quip that drinking water should be statinated, researchers remain dubious. "No one should ever consider putting [a statin] in the water. It's still a drug. It still causes adverse effects, and its use must be monitored by a physician," says Larry Sparks, senior scientist at Arizona's Sun Health Research Institute.

Statins are designed to target just one enzyme, HMG...

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