The Cholesterol Myth
Cholesterol became the hallmark of heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Doctors overwhelmingly agree that if you have high cholesterol you are at great risk. If your cholesterol is above 110 – you will be started on cholesterol lowering drugs STAT. Is this really necessary?
Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States. More people die of heart disease than any other leading killer disease combined except cancer. Your doctor is right to be concerned; still there is a misinterpretation of phenomenal proportions because cholesterol does not cause heart disease; inflammation does.
Statin therapy have huge implications and alter your body in profound and permanent ways. Statins should only be used as a last resort but in health care today, statins are prescribed to just about everyone. Even children and people who are not at risk for heart disease are prescribed statins as a prophylactics.
Lipitor (the leading cholesterol lowering medication) is the best selling drug of all times: annual sales bring more than $9 billion with a lifetime sales of more than $131 billion according to a report by the AARP. Doctors are quick to fill you a statin prescription because they are concerned but they also are under tremendous pressure from the medical establishment and endorsement from every major private and gov. health institution including of course the drug corporations.
Anyone with risk for heath attack should be more knowledgeable about cholesterol. What are the true risks of having high cholesterol should be better investigated. This might affect you decision whether to start treatment or not. Cholesterol is the most misunderstood substance in all history of health care. Most people think in terms of LDL “the bad cholesterol” and HDL “the good cholesterol” but in reality there are many types of cholesterol molecules and routine lab tests will not go in depth enough to show you the complete picture. The public shows little about the vital properties of cholesterol and how important it is for life maintenance. Cholesterol is the stuff of life and we should be very careful when altering its biochemistry. Should you be on statins?
I hope this article inspires you to think and research about cholesterol. With more information you might be able to make better decisions when it comes to treatment; that could have profound effects for the rest of your life. You should be the one who decide the risks and benefits of starting statins. Diabetes patients should be even more concern because now is a common practice to start diabetics on statins as a preventive therapy, whether they have heart disease or not.
The great cholesterol misinformation
The level of ignorance around cholesterol is perhaps the only one we should aggressively try to lower. Never in the history of health care have a substance been so demonized as cholesterol. It is synonymous with everything that is bad to your health when is actually – good. The bad guy is inflammation caused by terrible diet, sugars and starchy foods. Cholesterol is not the cause of health problems; it is just around when problems happens. Its like blaming the EMT guys for causing a car crash because every time there is an accident, you see them there.
Cholesterol perform three main functions
- Helps to make the outer coating of cells and support both cell creation and maintenance
- Makes up bile acids that aid digestion and vitamin absorption in the intestines
- Is responsible for vitamin D production and hormonal production like testosterone and estrogen
These three basic functions actually lead to a cascade of biochemical reactions vital to our life. Without cholesterol none of these primary functions could occur and we as humans would simply not be here. Cholesterol is the body’s feel good chemical and play an vital role in neurological functions including seratonin; when cholesterol levels are low, serotonin receptors cannot work properly. Memory is dependent on cholesterol. It is also a main component on myelin sheaths in the brain insulating nerve cells and synapsis which transmit nerve impulses. Cholesterol also helps to maintain the integrity of cell membranes playing a role in facilitating cell signaling. Your cells communicate better with one another when you have more cholesterol on board. Our bodies use cholesterol to synthesize bile acids which are important for the fat digestion. So there are several problems when you attempt to lower or get rid of it.
One the the greatest myths is that your arteries are like pipes and cholesterol is this gooey and sticky substance. The idea is that: the more cholesterol rich foods you eat the greater the risk for clogged arteries you have. In reality arteries are nothing like pipes and cholesterol is nothing like gook. Eating cholesterol rich foods do not create more cholesterol; your body does it anyway.
Eating cholesterol rich foods only increase cholesterol in 30% of the population which are called hyper-responders but it increases the LDL, the so called “bad cholesterol” but it also increases the HDL, the so called “good cholesterol”. There is no way to increase the good and decrease the bad, they go up at the same ratio. There is also a important point that is missed: LDL comes in two main forms: small and big particles. What causes harm in respect to LDL are the smaller particles which are prone to oxidation and can attach to sick arteries. Eating eggs or cholesterol rich foods only makes LDL particles become bigger and thus offer more protection against disease. Large LDL particles are safer.
A little cholesterol history
Cholesterol demonizing is a fairly new phenomena. No one knew too much about cholesterol in the past. Its relationship with heart disease was only discovered around 1940’s. No one bothered with it, they knew of its existence but didn’t even care to measured it. It was only when science begun to suspect an association between cholesterol and arterial plaque formation called atherosclerosis that things begun to change. Cholesterol does not cause plaque but it is involved in plaque formation and only occurs if inflammation is present.
How did cholesterol became such bad guy so quickly? The history of cholesterol and its role in heart disease seems to be filled with controversy since it was first discovered. Research determining if cholesterol should be aggressively lowered have for the most part remained inconclusive. The two disagreeing camps pointed to opposite directions. The pharmaceutical industry usually the pro side, those against were the scientific community. Damage from statins can be permanent, thus the importance of this issues.
Before statins such as (Lipitor) came about, there was a less successful kind of drug called Fibrates (Lopid). These first anti lipid generation caused terrible side effects and made you stomach so upset you just had to stop taking it, and this was good thing. Statins in the other hand caused fewer side effects initially. When you start feeling the side effects they are most likely caused by permanent injury to your muscles or other parts of your body.
Should everyone take drugs if their cholesterol is above the “safe mark”? Should you take drugs if you don’t have heart disease but have a “high cholesterol”? Today prescriptions for Lipitor, Pravachol, and Simcor are basically given to anyone who’s cholesterol hovers around >120 – 150 is this necessary? The risks of taking statins may be greater then having cholesterol. By far.
The idea that cholesterol is evil is so pervasive, hardly anything can stop it. People will go for their annual physicals, get the “high cholesterol” red flag and their well intentioned providers with get them started right away on Lipitor or some other statin. How do we know if physicians are doing the right thing? Research will point out in whatever direction researchers are bent to believe, and money talks louder than science. How do we know who to trust: there is no easy answers. You must investigate for yourself. My intention here is to point out possible mistakes done by the medical industry, and possible alternatives you have.
What to do
With the cholesterol myth, don’t take my word and find out for yourself. If you are diabetic you need to know about statins even more because most doctors will start cholesterol treatment even if you are not at risk for heart disease. Because diabetics are at risk for inflammation lowering cholesterol might help. Click and read the research and links below, watch the videos. Adopt a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables and quality protein and fats. The fear of having high cholesterol itself might be causing your cholesterol to be high. Please stop worrying about cholesterol, that should be your first action.
A summary on cholesterol action and functions by Dr. Eric Berg
Dr Bergman lecture on cholesterol and blood pressure
- Statins for women, elderly: Malpractice?
- Major Outcomes in Moderately Hypercholesterolemic, Hypertensive Patients Randomized to Pravastatin vs Usual Care
- Mythbusters: Cholesterol An Interactive Qualifying Project Submitted to the faculty of WORCESTER POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE
- An interpretive history of the cholesterol controversy: part I
- Dangers of Statin Drugs: What You Haven’t Been Told About Popular Cholesterol-Lowering Medicines
- Asymptomatic hypothyroidism and statin-induced myopathy
- The statin studies: from targeting hypercholesterolaemia to targeting the high-risk patient
- The Cholesterol Myth (CAMBRIDGE INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR MEDICAL SCIENCE)
- Expanded Clinical Evaluation of Lovastatin (EXCEL) study results. Effect of patient characteristics on lovastatin-induced changes in plasma concentrations of lipids and lipoproteins
- The great cholesterol myth; unfortunate consequences of Brown and Goldstein’s mistake