THE DANGERS OF STATINS
By Dr. Mercola
“Statin Nation II: What Really Causes Heart Disease?” is the sequel to the documentary “Statin Nation: The Great Cholesterol Cover-up.” However, it stands well on its own, even if you didn’t see the original film.
For many decades, the idea that saturated fats caused heart disease reigned supreme, and diets shifted sharply away from saturated animal fats such as butter and lard, toward partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and margarine.
However, as people abandoned saturated fats and replaced them with trans fats, rates of heart disease continued on a steady upward climb. And, the more aggressive the recommendations for low-fat diets, the worse this trend became.
Last year, butter consumption in the US reached a 40-year peak, and the resurgence of butter has been attributed to a shift in consumer preferences away from processed foods and back toward natural foods.
This is a positive trend, showing that the old myth claiming that saturated fat is bad for you is finally starting to crumble. People are also starting to recognize that refined sugar is far worse for your heart than dietary fat was, and processed low-fat foods are typically loaded with sugar.
The French Paradox
According to the film, the long held view that saturated fats and cholesterol caused heart disease came under closer scrutiny in the 1990s, when researchers like Kurt Ellison with the Boston University started taking notice of what became known as the French Paradox.
The French eat a lot more fat than many other nations, yet they don’t have higher rates of heart disease.
For example, in the UK people on average eat 13.5 percent of their total calories as saturated fat, whereas the French eat 15.5 percent saturated fat, yet their rate of heart disease deaths is about one-third of that in the UK — just 22 heart disease deaths per 100,000 compared to 63 per 100,000 in the UK.
Icelanders also consume higher amounts of saturated fat — on average 14.6 percent, but their rate of heart disease deaths is also lower than the UK, just 34 per 100,000.
The film reviews a number of statistics from other countries, including Denmark, Lithuania, and Portugal, which defy the idea that saturated fat consumption is associated with heart disease. The data simply doesn’t bear this out.
Here’s another startling example. The American Heart Association recommends keeping your saturated fat consumption below seven percent of your total calories, ideally around 5 or 6 percent.
Lithuania is very close to being on target, with a saturated fat consumption rate of 7.7 percent of total calories, yet Lithuania has one of the highest heart disease mortality rates in the world — 122 per 100,000.
Cholesterol Is Not a Major Factor in Heart Disease
Like saturated fat, cholesterol has also been wrongly demonized despite the fact that 60 years’ worth of research has utterly failed to demonstrate any correlation between high cholesterol and heart disease.
Despite this, many, even most health professionals still cling to the idea that cholesterol raises your risk for heart disease, and that strategies that lower cholesterol also lower your heart disease risk.
Fortunately, limitations for cholesterol will likely be removed from the 2015 edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which would be a welcomed change.
Cholesterol is actually one of the most important molecules in your body; indispensable for the building of cells and for producing stress and sex hormones, as well as vitamin D.
It’s also important for brain health, and helps with the formation of your memories. Low levels of HDL cholesterol have been linked to memory loss andAlzheimer’s disease, and may also increase your risk of depression, stroke, violent behavior, and suicide.
What You Need to Understand About HDL and LDL Cholesterol
While cholesterol is typically divided into HDL/”good” and LDL/”bad” cholesterol,” there’s really only one kind of cholesterol. The division into HDL and LDL is based on how the cholesterol combines with protein particles.
LDL and HDL are lipoproteins, meaning fats combined with proteins. Cholesterol is fat-soluble, and blood is mostly water, so for it to be transported in your blood, cholesterol needs to be carried by a lipoprotein, which is classified by density.
Large LDL particles are not harmful. Only small dense LDL particles can potentially be a problem, as they can squeeze through the lining of your arteries. If they oxidize, they can cause damage and inflammation.
Thus, it would be more accurate to say that there are “good” and “bad” lipoproteins (opposed to good and bad cholesterol). Dr. Stephen Sinatra, a board certified cardiologist, and Chris Kresser, L.Ac., an integrative medicine clinician, have both addressed this issue in previous interviews.
Some groups, such as the National Lipid Association, are now starting to shift the focus toward LDL particle number instead of total and LDL cholesterol, in order to better assess your heart disease risk. But this approach has not yet spread into the mainstream.
Statins Are Prescribed Based on an Incorrect Hypothesis
Since the cholesterol hypothesis is false, this also means that the recommended therapies — low-fat, low-cholesterol diet, and cholesterol lowering medications — are doing more harm than good. Statin treatment, for example, is largely harmful, costly, and has transformed millions of people into patients whose health is being adversely impacted by the drug. As previously noted by Dr. Frank Lipman:1
“[T]he medical profession is obsessed with lowering your cholesterol because of misguided theories about cholesterol and heart disease. Why would we want to lower it when the research2 actually shows that three-quarters of people having a first heart attack, have normal cholesterol levels, and when data over 30 years from the well-known Framingham Heart Study3 showed that in most age groups, high cholesterol wasn’t associated with more deaths?
In fact, for older people, deaths were more common with low cholesterol. The research is clear – statins are being prescribed based on an incorrect hypothesis, and they are not harmless.”