Lower Cholesterol Levels are Not Always Better
My friend Cheryl waved her blood test results at me. “My cholesterol is down to 160!” she exclaimed happily.
“Oh dear, I’m sorry,” I said. “Want to go have a bacon cheeseburger, fries and a shake?”
I was kidding of course. A better solution was for Cheryl to stop taking her statin drugs, which her doctor had put her on because, at 67 years old, her total cholesterol level was 220.
The fact that statin drugs are still widely and indiscriminately prescribed for so-called high cholesterol is a testimonial to the power of drug company money and lobbyists over evidence-based medicine.
Delve into cholesterol research and you may be shocked to find out that, except for a very small sub-group, cholesterol-lowering drugs do not prevent women from dying of heart disease. There is no evidence (that’s right, zip, zero, nada) that cholesterol-lowering drugs prevent anyone over the age of 65 from dying of heart disease.
The illusion that the statin cholesterol-lowering drugs prevent death from heart disease in everyone over 50 has been achieved by 20 years of data tweaking, weasel wording, and billions of dollars in advertising, lobbying and physician-bribing by the drug companies. Since the large media outlets are financially dependent on drug company advertising, no news organization bothers to actually read and interpret drug studies, they simply regurgitate what’s handed to them, no questions asked.
Cholesterol is essential for good brain function, an important health issue for the elderly. According to Julian Whitaker, M.D., “… the Framingham Heart Study has shown that older people with low total cholesterol (under 200) are much more likely to perform poorly on tests of mental function than those with high cholesterol (over 240).”
The Framingham Study has also shown repeatedly over the decades that high HDL or “good” cholesterol is significantly associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and a reduced risk of death from heart disease in almost everyone, yet statins have only minor, if any positive effects on HDL.
There is ample evidence that excessively low cholesterol levels can be harmful to men and women.
9 Things You Can’t Do Without Cholesterol
- Make vitamin D
- Make progesterone
- Make estrogen
- Make testosterone
- Make cortisol
- Make DHEA
- Protect brain functions such as memory and learning
- Digest fat-soluble nutrients such as fat-soluble vitamins such as A, E and K
- Have a healthy immune system
Or to put it another way:
What Low Cholesterol Levels Can Do To You
- Increase the risk of suicide
- Increase the risk of depression
- Increase the risk of violent behavior
- Increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke
- Increase cancer risk by reducing vitamin D levels
- Increase osteoporosis risk by reducing hormone levels
- Increase fatigue
- Increase anxiety
- Reduce levels of fat soluble vitamins such as A, E and K
- Damage memory and learning ability
Unless LDL cholesterol is extremely high, the only possible benefit of statin drugs for most people is their modest anti-inflammatory effect. A wide range of herbs, supplements and drugs such as aspirin, and ibuprofen have more potent anti-inflammatory effects. Eating healthy foods and avoiding toxins such as fake fragrances and pesticides can also help reduce inflammation.
Simple Solution to a Healthier Cholesterol Profile
One of the simplest and safest ways to create and maintain a healthier cholesterol profile is to eat more fiber. A study published in the March 2010 issue of the journal Atherosclerosis found that participants who used psyllium husk (e.g. Metamucil) for 8 weeks had significantly reduced LDL cholesterol, oxidized LDL, total cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin and blood pressure, and higher “good” HDL cholesterol. The statins do not improve the entire cholesterol profile in this way, nor do they lower triglycerides, insulin and blood pressure. And yet, psyllium is inexpensive, easy to use and has no side effects.
For more details on cholesterol and health, get the e-booklet, Dr. John Lee's Commonsense Guide to a Healthy Heart.