Tags: cholesterol | statins | atherosclerosis | heart attack

The Truth About Cholesterol

Wednesday, 05 August 2015 04:50 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Speculation about cholesterol began in the early 1900s, when a chemist examined deposits that had formed in diseased arteries provided to him by a pathologist. The chemist eventually determined that these deposits contained a fair amount of cholesterol, and even had formed cholesterol crystals.

Scientists knew that certain foods contained high levels of cholesterol, just as was found in the diseased arteries. They then drew the conclusion that the arterial deposits were caused by eating too many cholesterol-containing foods — such as eggs and meats.

The conclusion seemed to make sense. And, in fact, this hypothesis about atherosclerosis lasted until just recently (and some stubborn physicians still hold onto this false idea).

But several careful studies have demonstrated that for the majority of people there was no relation between eating high cholesterol foods and atherosclerosis.

One surgeon I spoke to recalled a good friend being told by his cardiologist that he had to give up eggs or he would have a heart attack. Yet despite following a strict, low-cholesterol diet, the man died of a massive heart attack anyway.

A similar scenario happened to President Dwight Eisenhower. After suffering a minor heart attack, his cardiologist put him on a stringent, low-fat, low-cholesterol diet. Eisenhower lowered his cholesterol to within normal limits, but still died of a heart attack while still a relatively young man.

For decades, stories like these were repeated, yet physicians continued to recommend avoiding cholesterol-containing foods to prevent a heart attack.

And in those decades, death from heart attacks and strokes continued to climb.

As always occurs in these scientific battles, a small group of people dissented from the mainstream theory. These people weren’t crackpots or “fringe” scientists, they were some of the brightest minds in medical research.

But scientists are just like everyone else in the world — they suffer from prejudices, envy, jealousy, vindictiveness, corruption, and a hunger for power. This is not to say that there are no men of principles in medicine, but it’s hard for people to let go of their established beliefs.

Today, this battle of ideas involves more than just egos. Rather, there are millions — sometimes billions — of dollars at stake. The lifeblood of researchers is money in the form of grants, which either come from the government (the taxpayer) or private corporations.

But both sources come with strings attached, and are actually controlled by private corporations. Lobbyists from the pharmaceutical industry, for instance, constantly pressure the government to give grants only to the scientists supporting a theory that can make them money.

The real push for the cholesterol theory of atherosclerosis came with the introduction of statin drugs. Of course, pharmaceutical companies touted the drug’s cholesterol-lowering effects, but neglected to mention that statins are powerful immune suppressants and only moderately anti-inflammatory.

I was one of the first to point out that any benefit patients got from statin drugs came from their immune suppressing/anti-inflammatory effects and not their cholesterol lowering effects. This is now accepted, at least in part, by the medical establishment.

Fortunately, the science is now so strong that even cheerleaders for the cholesterol theory are slowly moving toward endorsing the anti-inflammatory effects of statins as their chief benefit.

Yet some still cannot admit to the real hazards associated with statins, such as:

• Memory loss

• Brain hemorrhages

• ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease)

• Severe peripheral neuropathy

• Prolonged immune suppression

• Cancer risk

• Infections

In fact, the benefits of statins are no better than taking an aspirin a day — and aspirin costs a lot less and has fewer serious complications. However, I don’t recommend daily aspirin either.

Proof that statin benefits are overhyped becomes obvious when you understand that these drugs have been in widespread use for the past decade and a half, yet death from cardiovascular diseases is essentially unchanged over that period.

If statins were the miracle drug we are being told they are, then death rates should have fallen substantially.

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I was one of the first to point out that any benefit patients got from statin drugs came from their immune suppressing/anti-inflammatory effects and not their cholesterol lowering effects.
cholesterol, statins, atherosclerosis, heart attack
Wednesday, 05 August 2015 04:50 PM
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