Those who have reviewed their medical report carefully, know that levels of HDL and LDL in the blood are indicative of risk of heart disease. They are known as ‘good cholesterol’ and ‘bad cholesterol’ respectively. But not many outside the medical community know that LDL and HDL are actually not cholesterol at all! They are types of lipo-proteins, which act as the carriers of cholesterol to help them move through the body.
LDL carries cholesterol all over the body from where it is produced, therefore increases cholesterol in circulation and is consequently termed ‘bad’. HDL clears cholesterol from the blood and takes it to the liver to be recycled. It reduces the cholesterol in circulation and is therefore called ‘good’. LDL also carry triglycerides- keep this fact in mind and we will come back to it later.
The recent development is that top medical researchers are confused why their drug that lowers LDL and increases HDL had no effect on incidences of heart attack. This is the result of a clinical trial with over 12,000 participating patients.
Despite lowering LDL by 34% and increasing HDL by 126%, 256 participants had heart attacks compared with 255 patients in the group who were taking a placebo. 92 patients taking the drug had a stroke, compared to 95 in the placebo group. The results were a major blow to the study and the drug being tested has been pulled back by Eli Lilly, the drug maker (Ref1).
Dr Stephen J. Nicholls, the study’s principal investigator echoes the thoughts of leading cardiologists worldwide, “It’s the most mind-boggling question. How can a drug that lowers something that is associated with benefit, not show any benefit?”
Pharma companies, Roche and Pfier, scrapped similar drugs after they failed to help patients in trials. Merck & Co continue to explore it in a 30,000 patient study which is expected to be completed by next year, 2017.
Why Are These Drugs Ineffective?
Cardiologist Dr. Stephen Sinatra is the author of The Great Cholesterol Myth says the real cause of heart disease is inflammation, and not cholesterol. He sums the entire story perfectly, ”
Cholesterol is found at the scene of the crime for heart disease, but it’s not the perpetrator.
A Heart Surgeon for over 25 years, Dr Dwight Lundell, speaks out, “The only accepted therapy was prescribing medications to lower cholesterol and a diet that severely restricted fat intake.. These recommendations are no longer scientifically or morally defensible.” (Ref2). He points to latest research that is indicating that inflammation in the artery wall as the real cause of heart disease (Ref3,4).
What is Wrong With How High Cholesterol Is Treated Now?
Doctors currently prescribe statins, like Lipitor, for lowering cholesterol in patients. Statins are compounds that inhibit the production of cholesterol in the body. Among other deadly side-effects of this drug (increased risk of type-2 diabetes, liver injury, memory loss, etc), the associated muscle pain means only 57% patients can tolerate it (Ref5).
Despite this, the drug Lipitor is the most profitable drug until its patent expired in 2011. One in every 4 Americans, over the age of 45 years, is prescribed a statin. In 2010, the year before the patent for Lipitor expired, the annual sales of cholesterol-reducing drugs was $35 Billion (Ref6).
No wonder the Pharma Companies are scrambling to find their next blockbuster drug!
If Not Cholesterol, What Is the Marker For Risk Of Heart Diseases?
The reason for developing risk factors leading to heart diseases is Obesity, High Fasting Glucose, High Blood Pressure, High Triglyceride levels and low HDL or high LDL levels. Your risk of heart disease increases with more number of risk factors you suffer from.
HDL and LDL levels by themselves need not be a cause of concern and certainly not the reason for taking cholesterol reducing drugs.
Remember in the introduction of this article, we talked about how LDL carries both cholesterol AND triglycerides. Doctors are now considering if triglyceride is the real cause of these high LDLs.
What To Do?
The reason that you have developed these risk factors (obesity, high fasting glucose, etc) is because you are consuming excess calories along with a diet that is high in sugar, refined and processed foods.
Instead of taking drugs and supporting the billion dollar pharma industry, you need to
- Clean up your Diet – Low Carb Diet and Mediterranean Diet are known to help in lowering triglyceride levels significantly (Ref7,8)
- Reduce your Weight with a combination of diet and exercise
- Quit Smoking
Guidelines on Cholesterol Intake Were Also Revised Last Year
Last year the Department of Health and Human Services that issues the ‘Dietary Guidelines For Americans’, retracted entirely their limit on dietary cholesterol consumption.
Cholesterol is now not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.
Before this, the consumption of cholesterol was limited to 300mg per day. Dr Nissen, who led the study on statins, admits that these guidelines were flawed. This undid 40 years of warning about foods like eggs, milk, ghee, coconut oil, etc. Essentially the cholesterol from your diet has no notable effect on the cholesterol in your blood.
From the diet, only about 15% reaches the bloodstream which is barely 3-5% of what the body requires. Most cells in your body and largely the liver produces the cholesterol that the body needs for a strong cellular structure and also to make important hormones like Cortisol, Testosterone, Estrogen, etc.
Ref1: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/04/health/dashing-hopes-study-shows-cholesterol-drug-has-no-benefits.html?_r=0 Last accessed Apr 2016.
Ref2: Dr Dwight Lundell. Heart Surgeon speaks out on what really causes heart disease. http://www.sott.net/article/242516-Heart-surgeon-speaks-out-on-what-really-causes-heart-disease. Last accessed Apr 2016.
Ref3: Interleukin-6 receptor pathways in coronary heart disease: a collaborative meta-analysis of 82 studies. the Lancet, Volume 379, Issue 9822, 1205-13
Ref4: Kaptoge S, et al. Inflammatory cytokines and risk of coronary heart disease: new prospective study and updated meta-analysis. European Heart Journal. Vol 35, Issue 9. Sep 2013. 579-89
Ref5: Nissen S.E, et al. Efficacy and Tolerability of Evolocumab vs Exetimibe in Patients With Muscle-Related Statin Intolerance. JAMA Published online Apr 03, 2016. (http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2511043)
Ref6: Statins: The Drug Firms Goldmine. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/8267876/Statins-the-drug-firms-goldmine.html. Last Accessed Apr 2016.
Ref7: Gardner, et al. A TO Z Weight Loss Study – A randomized trial. JAMA, Mar 2007 – Vol 297, No. 969-77
Ref8: Shai, et al. Weight loss with a low-carbohydrate, Mediterranean or low-fat diet. N Engl J Med. Jul 2008; 359(3):229-41