High Cholesterol and Heart Disease: Myth or Reality? Part I

As part of  preventative screenings we are advised to have our cholesterol levels tested and monitored. Often when these levels go above a determined number we are prescribed statin drugs to lower these numbers. When we hear the term ”high-cholesterol” we automatically cringe and visions of a massive heart attack and triple bi-pass surgery come quickly to mind.

For years we’ve been advised to ditch the butter in favor of “more healthy” mono and polyunsaturated fats. We’ve been told over and over again by our doctors and the media that we must lower our cholesterol levels to prevent heart disease and one way of doing this is to stop eating animal products that contain cholesterol. Most major health organizations such as the American Heart Association, the American Dietetic Association, and the American Medical Association all tell us and their members (physicians and registered dietitians) that high cholesterol leads to heart disease. You would think that such prestigious organizations would be advising us well. But are they?

It seems that cholesterol and saturated fats are doomed to stay on death row for many years to come. But have they really committed the crime that they have been accused of? Have they had a fair and unbiased trial? Is there hidden evidence that may prove their innocence?

For as many years as we’ve been hearing about ways to lower our cholesterol in attempts to avoid coronary heart disease (CHD), there has been contrary research going on behind the scenes. Research and studies that haven’t gotten much attention.  One person that has read and analyzed a large amount of research regarding cholesterol is Uffe Ravnskov, MD,PhD. In his books, “The Cholesterol Myth” (out of print in English) and the newer version, “Fat and Cholesterol are Good for You”, Dr. Ravnskov dissects the research that has lead us to the current belief about cholesterol and CHD (coronary heart disease) by analyzing the references and showing their statistical flaws or their contradiction to the hypothesis, often showing that the studies actually prove nothing.

On his website he shares the following information regarding cholesterol:

  1. Cholesterol is not bad, it is a vital substance
  2. People with low blood cholesterol are just as likely to be atherosclerotic as people with high cholesterol
  3. Your body produces 3 to 4 times as much cholesterol as you consume
  4. There is no evidence that animal fat in the diet promote atherosclerosis or heart disease
  5. Cholesterol lowering drugs are dangerous and may shorten your life
  6. Statins do prevent cardiovascular disease, but not by lowering cholesterol
  7. Many of these facts have been present in scientific journals and books for decades yet ignored
  8. There are benefits to high cholesterol

So it seems that our fear of high cholesterol may be unnecessary. We may live a long and heart disease-free life with cholesterol levels considered by the medical establishments to be “high”.

If this is the case, then why do our doctors and major medical organizations continue to link cholesterol with CHD and continue to try and lower our levels, especially with statin drugs?

And if cholesterol is really not a major contributor to CHD, what is? What lifestyle changes should you really make to lower your risk for CHD?

Both these questions will be addressed in future blog posts. Please check back often or please subscribe (above right) so you don’t miss the posts.

References

  1. Krumholz HM and others. Lack of association between cholesterol and coronary heart disease mortality and morbidity and all-cause mortality in persons older than 70 years. Journal of the American Medical Association 272, 1335-1340, 1990.
  2. Ravnskov U. High cholesterol may protect against infections and atherosclerosis. Quarterly Journal of Medicine 96, 927-934, 2003.
  3. Jacobs D and others. Report of the conference on low blood cholesterol: Mortality associations. Circulation 86, 1046–1060, 1992.
  4. Iribarren C and others. Serum total cholesterol and risk of hospitalization, and death from respiratory disease. International Journal of Epidemiology 26, 1191–1202, 1997.
  5. Iribarren C and others. Cohort study of serum total cholesterol and in-hospital incidence of infectious diseases. Epidemiology and Infection 121, 335–347, 1998.
  6. Rauchhaus M and others. The relationship between cholesterol and survival in patients with chronic heart failure. Journal of the American College of Cardiology 42, 1933-1940, 2003.
  7. Horwich TB and others. Low serum total cholesterol is associated with marked increase in mortality in advanced heart failure. Journal of Cardiac Failure 8, 216-224, 2002.
  8. Elias ER and others. Clinical effects of cholesterol supplementation in six patients with the Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome (SLOS). American Journal of Medical Genetics 68, 305–310, 1997.
  9. Ross R, Glomset JA. The pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. New England Journal of Medicine 295, 369-377, 1976.
  10. Ross R. The pathogenesis of atherosclerosis and update. New England Journal of Medicine 314, 488-500, 1986.

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One thought on “High Cholesterol and Heart Disease: Myth or Reality? Part I

  1. Walter says:

    Heya i am for the first time here. I came across this board and I find It
    truly helpful & it helped me out a lot. I’m hoping to provide something again and help others like you helped me.

    Like

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