I am Shaking My Head over the health news in the New York Times this morning. Here is the headline:
I can’t assume that you know what statins are, and why their use might be expanded to more people than currently take them now. Statins are a drug that people at risk for coronary artery disease are prescribed to lower the cholesterol levels in their blood. Remember that the advice until just this year on cholesterol included not eating foods high in cholesterol. Cholesterol in your blood does not come from eating cholesterol laden foods, though. That is why they have removed the cautions about eating things like eggs and shellfish. You don’t get high cholesterol in your blood by eating it.
Statins lower blood cholesterol by preventing your liver from creating it. People with high cholesterol in their blood are making more of it than their body needs to operate, and the statin drug interferes with the liver’s ability to make cholesterol.
A study published last year estimated that 56 million American adults, or almost half those age 40 to 75, would be advised to take statins under the new guidelines, compared with 43.2 million, or 37.5 percent, under the old ones. In actuality, about one in four adults of that age now take statins, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Re-read that paragraph with me: 43.2 million, or 37.5 percent of all adults age 40 to 75 are currently advised to take statins to correct their liver’s creation of cholesterol. With the new guidelines it will go to 50%. Every other person you know between 40 and 75 will be advised to take a drug that has serious side effects, to correct a symptom of poor diet, to cause a chemical to go down in your blood, with the effects of this lowering on your health being hotly debated in science.
We all know, if we have been following this blog for any length of time, that two out of three Americans are overweight, and one third are obese. These people are all, one hundred percent of them, going to be advised to take statin drugs by the time they are 75. They are overweight because they eat too much carbohydrate, and their blood cholesterol numbers are out of whack because their liver creates cholesterol out of the foods that they eat. They don’t make cholesterol out of eating cholesterol, they make it out of eating sugar, starch and grains.
Science is not even certain that lowering cholesterol is beneficial in improving cardiovascular health. It has become an article of faith among doctors that if there is heart disease they prescribe statins. The effect that these drugs have on the progress of the disease is not certain, despite what they would have you believe.
(“ Most drugs have multiple actions,” notes the University of Washington biostatistician Richard Kronmal. Saying that statins reduce heart-disease risk by lowering cholesterol, he adds, is like “saying that aspirin reduces heart-disease risk by reducing headaches.”)
In the late 1970s, the World Health Organization launched a research project known as MONICA, for “MONItoring CArdiovascular disease,” that was similar in concept to Keys’s Seven Countries Study but considerably larger. The study tracked heart disease and risk factors in thirty-eight populations in twenty-one countries— a total population of roughly six million people, which unlike previous studies included both men and women. Hugh Tunstall-Pedoe, the MONICA spokesman, has described the project as “far and away the biggest international collaborative study of cardiovascular disease ever carried out” and noted that, “whatever the results, nobody else has better data.” By the late 1990s, MONICA had recorded 150,000 heart attacks and analyzed 180,000 risk-factor records. Its conclusion: heart-disease mortality was declining worldwide, but that decline was independent of cholesterol levels, blood pressure, or even smoking habits.
Taubes, Gary (2007-09-25). Good Calories, Bad Calories (Kindle Locations 1890-1896). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Science is likewise uncertain that lowering cholesterol is a cause of other problems. When studies have looked at mortality in relation to cholesterol levels, not just heart attack versus cholesterol, the results were alarming. Here is Taubes again:
…This was compounded by what may have been the single most striking result in the history of the cholesterol controversy, although it passed without comment by the authorities: those Framingham residents whose cholesterol declined over the first fourteen years of observation were more likely to die prematurely than those whose cholesterol remained the same or increased. They died of cardiovascular disease more frequently as well. The Framingham investigators rejected the possibility that the drop in cholesterol itself was diet-related— the result of individuals’ following AHA recommendations and eating low-fat diets. Instead, they described it as a “spontaneous fall,” and insisted that it must be caused by other diseases that eventually led to death, but they offered no evidence to support that claim.
Taubes, Gary (2007-09-25). Good Calories, Bad Calories (Kindle Locations 1921-1926). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
We are on one long drug trial. Half of us are going to be recommended to take a class of drugs that prevent one of our organs from performing a perfectly normal function. What your liver will do about the chemicals that it encounters that it is being prevented from turning into cholestrol is anyone’s guess. If it can’t make cholesterol, then there will be a raw material of cholesterol in your blood that your body is not handling. Statins cause cramping and muscle damage. Perhaps this is a reason why.
What you should do, if you want to prevent your liver from creating too much cholesterol, is quit putting foods in your mouth that lead to cholesterol. We know what they are not–eggs, shellfish, foods high in their own cholesterol. We know how to get better cholesterol ratios too, lower your weight by eating less carbohydrates.
“In the 1980s,” says Judith Hallfrisch, who worked with Reiser at the USDA, “people didn’t even believe that elevated triglycerides were a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. So they didn’t care that much about the increase in triglycerides. Everything was cholesterol.” (Although sugar also seemed to raise cholesterol levels, particularly LDL, as would be expected for any nutrient that increased triglyceride synthesis in the liver. In 1992, John Bantle reported that LDL cholesterol in diabetic patients was elevated more than 10 percent on a high-fructose diet after a month, which is comparable to what can be achieved by saturated fats.)
Taubes, Gary (2007-09-25). Good Calories, Bad Calories (Kindle Locations 4230-4234). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Body chemistry science is complex and evolving. The ability to measure things like the different kinds of cholesterol are evolving. It is only recently that they realized that there is a low density cholesterol and high density cholesterol. One is good for you and one is implicated in health problems. What you eat actually leads to divergent LDL and HDL readings. It is proven that eating real food leads to better results. Better results will lead you to not have to take statins in the first place. You can control whether you are in the half of people that doctors will target as statin drug test subjects.