Cholesterol—The Hype and the Myth
From The Blood Code
You will notice that little attention is placed on total and LDL cholesterol in The Blood Code. That is because it’s not an accurate or helpful indicator of your health and longevity.[i] A 2009 American Medical Association (AMA) publication stated that all physicians should be running blood tests such as insulin to identify those patients at risk for high blood pressure and heart disease.[ii] Years have passed, and cholesterol still dominates the market and conversation, in large part due to the marketing of statin medications, the most financially lucrative drug class to have ever hit the market worldwide.
Statins, the drugs that lower cholesterol, have enjoyed nearly two decades’ worth of publicity in which billions upon billions of dollars have been spent in advertising campaigns to convince you and your doctor that you will reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke if you take the medication. The fact is that only about 1 percent of high-risk people taking the drug will reduce their stroke or heart attack incidence. Women, and those over the age of seventy, don’t even get the 1 percent reduction. And one more thing: Studies show that those who take the drug don’t live longer, so apparently, they die more often from other stuff.[iii]
I love science and the rational interpretation that must be exercised when evaluating research. The pharmaceutical industry has creatively packaged statistics into brochures and commercials, and they are really good at it. In my experience, when a drug goes generic, the industry spin stops, and some of the truth begins to come out. In the case of statins, Pfizer’s blockbuster statin drug, Lipitor, went generic in January of 2012.
Here are some headlines from WebMD from the months that followed generic licensing of statin medications.
- February 28, 2012: fda adds warnings to statin label: diabetes, memory loss, high blood sugars by Reed Miller
- June 11, 2012: statins linked to fatigue in randomized study by Sue Hughes
- August 13, 2012: statins linked with development of cataracts by Michael O’Riordan
- August 22, 2012: statin potency linked with muscle weakness by Nancy A. Melville
- March 1, 2013: statin therapy and the risk for diabetes among adult women: do the benefits outweigh the risk? by Yunsheng Ma, et al.
- June 5, 2013: statins linked with risk of musculoskeletal injury by Michael O’Riordan
Despite damaging side effects, statin-type cholesterol-lowering medication has been prescribed with abandon for two decades, and yet scientific evidence does not show any significant reduction in death rates for those using the drug for primary prevention of heart attack and stroke.[iv]
Once you depart from the LDL cholesterol fixation, you can appreciate the other parts of your Blood Code that realistically signify your path to health and longevity: TG:HDL, insulin, HOMA-IR, and body fat distribution.
[i] Sinatra, S., Bowden, J. The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Your Cholesterol Won’t Prevent Heart Disease-and the Statin-Free Plan That Will, Fair Winds Press, 2012.
[ii] Forman, J., et al. Uric acid and insulin sensitivity and risk of incident hypertension. Arch Intern Med. 2009; 169(2):155–62.
[iii] Jackson, P., et al. Statins for primary prevention: At what coronary risk is safety assured? British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 2001 52:439–46.
[iv] Abramson, J., Wright, J. Are lipid-lowering guidelines evidence-based? Lancet, vol. 369, 2007 Jan 20; 369(9557):168–9.