I'm going to have a cholesterol-related heart attack, but it won't have anything to do with my cholesterol levels. It has to do with the plague of ads for statin drugs on television.
In an effort to not have my blood pressure go through the roof, I swore off watching cable news, and have been watching a lot of Food Network and HGTV instead (hey, what can I say... denial is so popular because it WORKS). I am firmly convinced that without statin advertising, both these networks would immediately go bankrupt.
A nice person on one of my Atkins lists recently posted concern about her serum cholesterol levels, saying that while on a pre-Atkins juice fast, she felt her cholesterol levels "should have been zero." This is a perfect example of the widespread demonization of cholesterol and dietary fat in our society.
There is nothing harmful about having cholesterol in your bloodstream. In fact, without it, you will die. Your body makes all its hormones out of cholesterol and it is absolutely essential for our existence. If your cholesterol were REALLY "zero," you'd be dead. But it wouldn't be, no matter what you ate, because in fact, our bodies make most of our cholesterol. It doesn't come from the fat we eat.
Cholesterol and triglyceride levels are what are known as "surrogate markers," or something we CAN measure that gives us an idea of how a system we can't measure, or can't measure easily, is working. Unfortunately, the medical world has become obsessed with manipulating the levels of these surrogate markers, and lost their focus on fixing the broken underlying system. Instead of addressing the metabolic problem that is causing the high levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides, they give you drugs that lower your cholesterol reading. They cut the wire to the "check engine" light and then tell you they fixed your engine.
Third, I wouldn't take a statin drug if you gave me a million dollars. This whole class of drugs is being prescribed like it was candy, based on the flimsiest of data. The listed side effects, which include amnesia and DEATH, to my mind far outweigh the benefits.
Futhermore, there is no evidence that the cholesterol-lowering properties of the statins are responsible for the reduction of heart disease in those taking them, because older drugs that ONLY lower cholesterol do NOT reduce the incidence of heart disease. The lower rate of heart disease in those on statin drugs is probably due to their anti-inflammatory benefits, not their cholesterol lowering effect. And let me tell you, there are safer ways to reduce inflammation than statin drugs!
However, personally I go even further. Just like all the anti-Atkins propaganda out there, there is a huge amount of propaganda about cholesterol. But a more accurate picture is starting to emerge, just like the low-carb truth did.
From William Castelli, MD, Director of the Framingham Study, one of the largest medical studies ever done on the effects of fat and cholesterol on the heart:
"In Framingham, Massachusetts, the more saturated fat one ate, the more cholesterol one ate, the lower people's serum cholesterol. We found that people who ate the most cholesterol, ate the most saturated fat, ate the most calories weighed the least, and were the most physically active."
From Edward Pinckney, MD, former co-editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association:
"If you believe that you can ward off death from heart disease by altering the amount of cholesterol in your blood, whether by diet or by drugs, you are following a regime that still has no basis in fact. Rather, you as a consumer have been taken in by certain commercial interests and health groups who are more interested in your money than your life."
From George Mann, MD, Professor of Medicine and Biochemistry at Vanderbilt University, Tennessee and co-director of the Framingham Heart Study:
"The diet-heart idea (the notion that saturated fats and cholesterol cause heart disease) is the greatest scientific deception of our times. This idea has been repeatedly shown to be wrong, and yet, for complicated reasons of pride, profit and prejudice, the hypothesis continues to be exploited by scientists, fund-raising enterprises, food companies and even governmental agencies. The public is being deceived by the greatest health scam of the century."
Cholesterol Skeptics and the Bad News About Statin Drugs, Maryann Napoli, Center for Medical Consumers
Cholesterol and Heart Disease: A Phony Issue, Mary Enig, PhD
The Cholesterol Myths, Uffe Ravnskov, MD, PhD
Studies of Dietary Fat and Heart Disease, Ravnskov U, Allan C, Atrens D, Enig MG, Groves B, Kaufman J, Kroneld R, Rosch PJ, Rosenman R, Werkö L, Nielsen JV, Wilske J, Worm N. Science 2002; 295:1464-1465
The Soft Science of Dietary Fat, Gary Taubes, Science Magazine (winner of the National Assoc. of Science Writers, Inc. 2001 Science in Society Journalism Award for best magazine article; he also wrote What if it's all
been a big, fat lie?
Cholesterol does not cause coronary heart disease and statins don´t work by lowering lipids. The role of inflammation and stress, Paul Rosch; MD, FACP,
Clinical Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry, New York Medical College, President, The American Institute of Stress, Honorary Vice President, International Stress Management Association
Why Atkins Must Be Destroyed (this article compares the cholesterol/heart controversy with the Atkins controversy)