The Truth About Cholesterol & Statin Drugs

I can recall back in the 60’s and early 70’s when only a few medical mavericks and some people in the fledgling natural health foods movement were claiming that cholesterol was a problem. The average medical doctor totally ignored cholesterol as a risk factor for any disease until it exceeded 300.

Before long, the anti-cholesterol uproar became impossible to ignore, and so the establishment condescended to acknowledge the problem of high cholesterol. At that time anything above 250 was considered a problem, and it was generally recommended that people should avoid eating too many eggs or too much red meat because of the risk of heart disease from cholesterol intake.

Interestingly, it wasn’t the medical profession that was spearheading this anti-cholesterol movement; it was the processed food industry, lead in particular by the seed oil industry. Archer Daniels Midland wanted to sell train car loads of soybean oil, and thus led the charge against cholesterol in particular and saturated fat in general. Coconut and palm oils were banned from importation, and everyone “knew” that margarine was going to save our nation from what was sure to have been an epidemic of cardiovascular disease from eating dreaded saturated fat. The billions of dollars worth of propaganda from the processed food industry was enough to sway the minds and change the lifestyles of millions of Americans, but the medical-pharmaceutical establishment continued to ignore the perceived cholesterol threat, largely because they did not have an effective treatment for it.

Then what happened? Statin drugs were invented, (predictably) accompanied by a paradigm shift in the establishment. Now, cholesterol was the demon of the century, and our doctors and pharmacists were going to use those statin drugs to exorcise the evil that lurked within us all from our ill-advised intake of meat and eggs…or, were they just trying to sell a worthless (and harmful) product on a gullible public? We’ll come back to this later.

The all-out war against cholesterol has been waged for more than 30 years. The intensity of that war has not waned in the least despite the fact that for more than 20 years it has been known by the elites of the medical and pharmaceutical professions that cholesterol is not (never has been, and never will be) a primary risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

So, where is this so called evidence that elevated cholesterol is not a risk factor for heart disease? Well, how about the Journal of the American Medical Assn? A study reported by Gilman, et al in JAMA, Dec 24, 1997 found that:

“THE MORE SATURATED FAT YOU EAT , THE LESS LIKELY YOU ARE
TO SUFFER A STROKE”
This study found that polyunsaturated fats (the ones that the propagandists will have us believe are good for us) have no protective effect. Best of all, this study actually was able to quantify the protective effect of saturated fats:

YOUR RISK OF STROKE DECREASES BY 15%
FOR EVERY 3% INCREASE IN YOUR SATURATED FAT INTAKE

Here is another interesting study done by Leddy, et al, and published in 1997 in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, Volume 29. The subjects of this study were elite male and female endurance athletes, who were placed alternately on a high fat diet and then a low fat diet. On a high saturated fat diet the athletes maintained low body fat, normal weight, normal blood pressure, normal resting heart rate, normal triglycerides and normal serum cholesterol levels. All their fitness training parameters were maintained at the elite level.

However, when put on the low fat, high complex carbohydrate diet, it was found that the low fat diet negated many of the beneficial effects that exercise is expected to produce. The athletes experienced a measurable decline in athletic performance. Most interesting, however, was the fact that the subjects on the low fat diet actually suffered a significant drop in HDL cholesterol (the ‘good’ cholesterol), along with higher triglycerides (both of which are significant cardiovascular risk factors. In fact, the ratio of triglycerides to HDL cholesterol is possibly the number one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. In other words, what we really need is a high cholesterol of the HDL type, and low triglycerides. An ideal Triglyceride/HDL ratio is 2:1 or less. That means if your tri’s are 150 you need an HDL of 75 to balance it. Or, if your Tri’s are only 100 then you only need an HDL of 50 to balance it.

How many times and in how many ways do we have to explain to our patients that eating foods high in saturated (meat) fat and cholesterol is actually a way to prevent heart attacks and strokes? We know that the typical patient has been exposed to billions of dollars worth of anti-fat, anti-cholesterol propaganda over a period of 2-3 decades. So, we must keep piling up the evidence in favor of the truth. Here is another study: Research published in no less than the Journal of the American Medical Assn, 1999;281(15):1387:94, showed that there was absolutely no connection between eating eggs and the risk of heart disease or stroke in either men or women.

While we “Practitioners of the Truth” make the case for the healthy dietary fats (saturated medium chain triglycerides and cholesterol) we must spend an equal amount of time and energy exposing the lies of the seed oil industry and its minions the medical profession. Margarine, mayonnaise, cooking oil, salad dressings, and anything made with corn oil, soy oil, safflower oil, canola oil, peanut oil, or any of the rest of the so called “healthy oils” created by the seed oil industry will accelerate the aging process in general, create catabolic damage throughout the body, and will specifically cause the oxidative damage in the blood vessel walls and in the heart that precipitates a cardiovascular crisis. (This does not include the truly healthful olive oil, coconut oil and palm oil-and real butter.)

A study in the Journal of Lipid Research, 2000;41(5):834-39, showed that eating vegetable oils in the form of either soy bean oil or margarine raised LDL (bad) cholesterol and lowered HDL (good) cholesterol. Meanwhile, eating butter (one of those “forbidden foods” saturated with cholesterol) actually lowered LDL cholesterol and raised HDL cholesterol.

So, let me say this:
“You have been victimized by the same propaganda campaign that has mislead
thousands of other people. You have been convinced that cholesterol is a vicious
killer that must be conquered at all costs. It may surprise you to learn that choles-
terol is no terrible demon at all. In fact, cholesterol is an absolutely vital
substance; you would become very weak and die without cholesterol. It is that
important.

“Do you know that cholesterol makes up 5% of the dry weight of your brain?
Do you know that nerves are made up largely of cholesterol? Do you know what
your body uses to make all of your very important sex hormones and adrenal
hormones? That’s right-cholesterol. Do you know that without cholesterol to help your digestion you couldn’t absorb any of your fat soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E & K? Did you know that every single cell in your body is surrounded by a membrane containing cholesterol, and that without that cholesterol membrane no cell in your body could function?

“Cholesterol is so important that your liver produces 2000 milligrams of cholesterol every day. (Even a high cholesterol diet will provide at the most only 800 milligrams per day.) And, do you know what happens if you follow the foolish low cholesterol diet that the propagandists recommend? Your liver makes up the difference by producing more cholesterol just to be sure you have enough. High cholesterol in the blood doesn’t come from eating foods high in cholesterol; it comes from a metabolism that is not efficient at handling the cholesterol you need.

“It will interest you to know that high cholesterol in your blood is not a primary risk factor for heart attacks or strokes. For decades it was assumed that because high cholesterol tends to occur in people with cardiovascular disease it was the cause of heart attacks and strokes. But research now shows that cholesterol is not a primary risk factor for cardiovascular disease. In fact, people with low cholesterol are three times more likely to have a stroke than the average person. And, as far as heart attacks go, nearly 40% of all people who have heart attacks actually have low cholesterol.

“It is triglycerides (the other blood fat), that is the primary risk factor increasing your chance of having a heart attack or stroke. Many people are surprised to learn that even though triglycerides are a fat, the unhealthy diet that raises triglycerides has nothing to do with fat intake. Triglycerides and cholesterol as well, are elevated by eating sugar and or excessive starches. The other dietary factor that in some cases will raise cholesterol is polyunsaturated oils-including fish oil (the ones that the media says will help prevent cardiovascular disease). Neither triglycerides nor cholesterol are elevated by eating saturated fat in general or high cholesterol foods in particular…and yes, moderate amounts of animal fats are good for you!

“Now, that brings us to a discussion of the cholesterol-lowering drugs. As you can now understand, there is virtually no benefit from these drugs in terms of protecting you from heart attacks and strokes, since high blood cholesterol isn’t a causative factor of cardiovascular disease anyway. But more important to understand is how these drugs work.

“They work by destroying liver function so that your own liver cannot produce the 2000 milligrams of cholesterol a day that it knows you need. Liver damage from these drugs is such a major concern that once you are on them it is suggested that you have your blood tested for liver function enzymes every six months to make sure your liver isn’t being destroyed too quickly. The prescribing doctor is subject to malpractice if his patient’s liver is damaged on these drugs and he has not done the recommended tests. I can assure you that the danger to your health from these cholesterol lowering drugs far exceeds the danger to your health from having elevated cholesterol in your blood, especially if your cholesterol level is 250 or less (probably even 300 or less).”

So, if triglycerides, not cholesterol is the true boogey man, what weapons do we have that will help defeat this villain?

First, if you will follow our Gold Standard Diet you will be half-way there. By totally eliminating sweetened beverages, including fruit juices, along with minimizing bread, cereal and pasta, not to mention, of course, cakes, cookies, pie, and ice cream—any patient with high triglycerides will see a significant improvement. High intensity exercise is often essential for reducing triglycerides, preferably something like interval training. Beyond that, it may very well be necessary to determine what metabolic imbalances you have that are making it difficult, if not impossible for your body to properly handle these fats. Today, thanks to inexpensive Nutri-Spec testing that can be done in less than 30 minutes of your time.