Most of us think we know all about cholesterol. High levels are bad – really bad. They’re caused by eating “bad” fats like butter, and if you’ve got them you need statin drugs immediately to avoid a heart attack – right?
Well no. It seems the enthusiasm of drug manufacturers has once again run away on them.
The cholesterol drug industry is worth $28 billion a year, so perhaps it’s not surprising they’ve convinced the world we need them.
Increasingly though, switched on medical practitioners are questioning cholesterol science and finding it comes up short on evidence. Not only is it sugar rather than fat that causes high cholesterol, but having a high level is not necessarily going to lead to heart disease.
Consider these findings from latest research posted by Dr Mark Hyman in the Huffington Post:
• If you lower bad cholesterol (LDL) but have a low HDL (good cholesterol) there is no benefit to statins.
• If you lower bad cholesterol (LDL) but don’t reduce inflammation (marked by a test called C-reactive protein), there is no benefit to statins.
• If you are a healthy woman with high cholesterol, there is no proof that taking statins reduces your risk of heart attack or death.
• If you are a man or a woman over 69 years old with high cholesterol, there is no proof that taking statins reduces your risk of heart attack or death.
• Aggressive cholesterol treatment with two medications (Zocor and Zetia) lowered cholesterol much more than one drug alone, but led to more plaque build up in the arties and no fewer heart attacks.
• 75% of people who have heart attacks have normal cholesterol
• Older patients with lower cholesterol have higher risks of death than those with higher cholesterol.
• Countries with higher average cholesterol than Americans such as the Swiss or Spanish have less heart disease.
(Research papers for all these claims cited in Dr Hyman’s article)
Benefits and Risks of Cholesterol Drugs
Statins work for people who have already had heart attacks to prevent more heart attacks or death. And they work slightly for middle-aged men who have many risk factors for heart disease like high blood pressure, obesity, or diabetes.
If these medications were without side effects, then you may be able to justify the risk – but they cause muscle damage, sexual dysfunction, liver and nerve damage and other problems in 10-15% of patients who take them.
Cholesterol is only one factor of many — and not even the most important — that contribute to your risk of getting heart disease.
Corn Syrup Culprit
In reality, the biggest source of abnormal cholesterol is not fat at all — it’s sugar. The sugar you consume converts to fat in your body. And the worst culprit of all is high fructose corn syrup.
Consumption of high fructose corn syrup, which is present in sodas, many juices, and most processed foods, is the primary nutritional cause of most of the cholesterol issues doctors see in patients.
So the real concern isn’t the amount of cholesterol you have, but the type of fats and sugar and refined carbohydrates in your diet that lead to abnormal cholesterol production.
Find out more about Dr Mark Hyman and his Keys to Ultra Wellness
See Part 2 – Cholesterol Facts – What You Can Do.