Cholesterol Awareness Program – Drug Industry Deception

Cholesterol is not a Disease, Despite Drug Industry Claims

Cholesterol has taken a beating lately. What had been the established Medical Gospel for decades, that high cholesterol cholesterol-magnifying-glass-SScauses heart disease, appears to be false. I will explain why in detail in a moment, but first I want to warn you about yet another assault on your senses coming from the pharmaceutical industry. You see, if lowering cholesterol isn’t important, then the drugs that do it are no longer necessary. This is not something the pharmaceutical industry wants to hear.

More to the point, they don’t want you to hear it. Apparently Sanofi and Regeneron have decided to do something about this dire situation and have launched a program called Cholesterol Counts. It’s express purpose is to scare you into continuing to worry about it. In fact, they don’t actually come out and say that high cholesterol causes heart disease. Mainly they talk about cholesterol as if it were the disease itself.

So I am herewith launching a counter program:

Cholesterol Absolutely, Positively Doesn’t Count.

Just to break the ice a little, here are a couple facts that could not logically be true if cholesterol caused heart disease:

Fact #1. Women have higher cholesterol than men but have significantly less heart disease.

Fact #2. Many countries with high rates of heart disease have low cholesterol, and vice versa.

More to the point, there have been many studies published in the top journals, such as this one in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) which concluded, “Our findings do not support the hypothesis that hypercholesterolemia or low HDL-C are important risk factors for all-cause mortality, coronary heart disease mortality, or hospitalization for myocardial infarction or unstable angina in this cohort of persons older than 70 years.”

This is from 2008, so it’s not news. But we can go back to 1992 and find this jewel in the British Medical Journal, “Lowering serum cholesterol concentrations does not reduce mortality and is unlikely to prevent coronary heart disease. Claims of the opposite are based on preferential citation of supportive trials.”  1992.

Now this was an odd piece of research indeed. This researcher hypothesized that the reason people believed cholesterol should be lowered was solely due to proponents (read drug companies) selecting only studies that supported such a conclusion. Here is his stated objective: “To see if the claim that lowering cholesterol values prevents coronary heart disease is true or if it is based on citation of supportive trials only.”  He found that trials showing no benefit or worse, which were at least half the trials that reached completion, were seldom if ever cited. Trials that don’t complete are usually due to unexpected negative side effects. You almost never hear of these medical misfires.

What about supportive trials? Aren’t we being a bit one-sided here? One large trial with very supportive results for cholesterol lowering drugs was the JUPITER trial. Apparently one researcher, Michel de Lorgeril,  decided to check it out and apparently smelled a big (lab?) rat, stating, ”In conclusion, the results of the JUPITER trial are clinically inconsistent and therefore should not change medical practice or clinical guidelines. The results of the JUPITER trial support concerns that commercially sponsored clinical trials are at risk of poor quality and bias.” 

Ok, so it’s not news and maybe the drug companies are being a bit overzealous, but why not lower cholesterol anyway?

Cholesterol is not a toxic by-product. It is an essential molecule used for cell wall construction as well as being the foundational molecule for all steroidal and sex hormones. It is important and necessary to life and well-being. Shortages are dangerous. In fact your body makes its own, if necessary. If you eat food with little cholesterol, it will make more and vice versa. (So, you can’t change your cholesterol level with diet. (Note there are are a few genetic conditions where diet affects your level but this is not related to risk of cholesterol in your diet.)You can now enjoy that bacon guilt free.)

Pills can lower cholesterol by interfering with the body’s natural regulatory processes. Except in the case of organ failure, meddling with the body’s regulation is almost always a very bad idea. Ask yourself: Who knows best? The drug industry or two million years of evolution. I sure know where I’d put my money.

Some side effects of cholesterol lowering with statins include diabetes (!), liver problems, cataracts, depression of the immune system, and muscle problems.  Alzheimer’s is strongly linked to low total cholesterol. This is not to say that statins cause Alzheimer’s, but if lower cholesterol does indeed turn out to be a cause, then we know where the finger is going to point.

So what causes heart disease? It’s fairly straightforward. Junk gets stuck behind artery walls. This includes sugar like remnants, small LDL particles, and a variety of other stuff. These stray molecules will soon oxidize and become dangerous. The immune system will then kick in and attempt to either get rid of them or wall them off. It will typically do both. The process of doing this is involves a secretion of signaling chemicals that result in inflammation. Currently inflammation is the new bad boy on the heart disease scene (having replaced cholesterol), but this really isn’t the correct point of view either. Inflammation is the reaction. It is trying to repair damage. Inflammation is your friend. The problem is the cause of the inflammation. This is due to bad diet, typically dangerous levels of sugar and starch, stress, and lack of exercise. Smoking and excess alcohol also play major roles.

How does Quantitative Medicine determine heart disease?

These 6 measurements will pin it down.

  1. A full body scan will indicate the amount of heart and other arterial calcium. This is a direct measurement and directly related to atherosclerosis. Warning: use the right machine, not just the local 64 slice CT.
  2. C-Reactive Protein is a direct measure of inflammation. If high, there could be several causes, however, if it is low, the arteries are in a healing mode.
  3. LDL particle size. Small particles tend to get stuck, large do not. Oddly, particle size isn’t normally measured, though it is critically important. High triglycerides are the usual cause of this. Smoking and lack of exercise will aggravate it too.
  4. HDL is the ‘good cholesterol.’ It’s not really cholesterol at all; it is High Density Lipoprotein. It is a small particle generated by the liver that circulates about and vacuums up left over cholesterol as well as other detritus. If HDL2b, not just the total HDL, is high a lot of desirable cleanup is going on. HDL2B or the best form of HDL is a result of the right type and amount of exercise.
  5. Fasting insulin.
  6. Pre and Post fasting triglycerides.

If these numbers are in good shape, you arterial system is in a healing mode and your risk is low. If any of the numbers are not ideal, there are various ways to change them.

Hope all this helps to make you Cholesterol Aware. Don’t worry about cholesterol.

  3 comments for “Cholesterol Awareness Program – Drug Industry Deception

  1. Paul
    September 28, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    Dr. Nichols,
    I am very interested in your writings. I recently had a very disturbing “386” CT/calcium score (had a score of “22”, 10 years ago). I want to make sure I am pursuing the correct diet and exercise steps to prevent a heart attack or stroke. I am 62.

    In your writings, you state over and over that “you can’t change your cholesterol level with diet”.

    Given that this is true, how can you help me explain that over the past 5 years my total cholesterol has varied from a low of 124 (when I was eating a pretty rigid meat, veggies and fruit diet) to a high of 235 when I ate anything I wanted with no restrictions????

    BTW – Triglycerides went from 77 (meat & veggies) to 366 (anything) during the same period. [Duh! I understand this is the important marker and I’m working on it.]

    Thank you,
    Nashville Tn.

    • September 29, 2015 at 1:19 pm

      Well, there is one dramatic case where diet has an important impact on blood cholesterol numbers; those who are positive for Apo E4. If you have one or both of this allele you should know this and it will explain several seeming anomalies in your data. Absent that keep in mind we are not saying your blood cholesterol numbers don’t change over time just that week-in, week-out the number is not connected to diet. There are other health determinants at work. Tri’s at 77 when eating right? Sounds to me you already know how you are supposed to eat. I would check on that Apo E4 however. Dr. Mike

      • Paul
        October 2, 2015 at 8:24 pm

        Thanks Doc. Never heard of Apo E4 till now. After some brief Internet research, I guess I better figure out how to get that tested for – especially since my mother died of Alzheimer’s after following a pretty strict no fat diet most of her life. You are truly a font of knowledge. Thank you very much.

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