As I become more widely known in the field of diet and weight loss, I often find myself being asked for advice on the risks of cholesterol in the diet. Should we lower our fat intake to bring our cholesterol down? Should we get our cholesterol levels down by taking statin drugs? What if we are not even fat? Maybe cholesterol is not a problem.
After first cautioning those people that I am not a medically qualified doctor, I often launch into a scathing monologue about the myths that are associated with high cholesterol readings.
People are trying to get their cholesterol levels down without even knowing why. They seem to assume that high cholesterol will lead to higher levels of heart disease and higher risk of clogged arteries, when there are no reliable studies to prove that there is any basis for those fears.
The only people who can be guaranteed to be benefitting from statin drugs are the pharmaceutical industry that makes them and the medical professionals who prescribe them.
In an article by Doctor Mercola one of the world experts on natural medicine, the following points are made, and explained:
- We need Cholesterol
- Your Total Cholesterol Level Is NOT a Great Indicator of Your Heart Disease Risk
- Cholesterol Is Neither ‘Good’ Nor ‘Bad’
- Cholesterol Is Your Friend, Not Your Enemy
- The Insanity of Lowering Cholesterol
- Who Decided What Cholesterol Levels Are Healthy or Harmful?
- The Dangers of Cholesterol-Lowering Medications
- Are Cholesterol Drugs Even Effective?
- Zetia and Vytorin: No Medical Benefits
- How to Lower Inflammation, and Thereby Your Risk of Heart Disease, Naturally
- How to Lower Your Cholesterol Naturally
“But Hans, I am not so worried about the risks of heart attacks, I want to avoid my arteries getting clogged up with all that cholesterol stuff.”
Hogwash! There is no proof that cholesterol clogs up your arteries. In an article by Doctor Uffe Ravnskov, MD, PhD, the following points are brought home to the reader:
- One of the most surprising facts about cholesterol is that there is no relationship between the blood cholesterol level and the degree of atherosclerosis in the vessels. If a high cholesterol really did promote atherosclerosis, then people with a high cholesterol should evidently be more atherosclerotic than people with a low. But it isn´t so.
- In an early study by pathologist Dr. Paterson and his colleagues, they did not find any connection either between the degree of atherosclerosis and the blood cholesterol level. In fact those who had a low cholesterol were just as atherosclerotic when they died as those who had had a high cholesterol.
- Similar studies have since been performed in India, Poland, Guatemala, and in the USA, all with the same result: no correlation between the level of cholesterol in the blood stream and the amount of atherosclerosis in the vessels.
- Studies based on coronary angiography are fundamentally flawed if their findings are meant to be applied to the general population. Coronary angiographies are performed, mainly, on young and middle-aged patients with symptoms of heart disease, which means that a relatively large number of patients with familial hypercholesterolemia must have been included.
So like a lot of the myths that are associated with food, it would seem that there is very little sound evidence of a causal link between high cholesterol and blocked arteries.
But maybe you are still convinced that you need to take drugs or other actions to get your cholesterol levels down. What are the risks if you over-shoot and get those levels down too low?
In 1994, the American Heart Association Task Force on Cholesterol Issues published a report that linked total cholesterol levels of less than 160 mg/dL and an increase in deaths from trauma.
A study conducted in the late 1990s at the Duke University Medical Center found that otherwise healthy women with cholesterol levels below 160 mg/dL were more likely to show signs of depression and anxiety than women with normal or high cholesterol levels.
And even more recently, a study published in 2009 in the “Journal of Psychiatric Research” found that men with very low total cholesterol (165 mg/dL) and depression were at very high risk for premature death from unnatural causes.
So to summarise, if you lower your cholesterol levels too far you risk:
- Some types of cancer
- Respiratory diseases
- Infectious diseases
- Impulsivity and aggression
- Very high risk of premature death from unnatural causes
- Men with low total cholesterol PLUS symptoms of depression were seven times more likely to die prematurely from suicides, drug overdoses, and accidents and injuries than those without those markers
A few thought provoking videos on the topic:
And there’s more:
And this one:
A scary interview about the dangers of statins
And Doctor Rothman describes some ways to lower your own cholesterol
So like a lot of things in the world of diets, the judges are still out. It seems impossible to get 100% conclusive evidence because so many of the studies are done on laboratory rats and mice, and it is extremely expensive and time consuming to perform the experiments on real, live humans.
My personal take is that for now I will be ignoring all the hype about the eating or saturated fats leading to high cholesterol, and the high cholesterol causing heart disease and blocked arteries. From now on if I am offered a juicy steak, or a huge serve of bacon and eggs I will just go ahead and eat it!
UPDATE – 28/10/2015
I recently found this video about Cholesterols and Fats in your blood.
This is a very informative video. You will learn a hell of a lot of information about cholesterol and lipids and the impact of them on our arterial health in this video.