Cholesterol: The most misunderstood nutrient of all

Cholesterol: The most misunderstood nutrient of all

Wait—did you say “NUTRIENT”?? Isn’t cholesterol something that’s just plain bad for you?? There is not one other dietary inclusion or physiological substance that has received worse press in the last century than cholesterol...poor, poor, misunderstood cholesterol.

Wait—did you say “NUTRIENT”?? Isn’t cholesterol something that’s just plain bad for you?? There is not one other dietary inclusion or physiological substance that has received worse press in the last […]

There is hardly a bigger moneymaker for the pharmaceutical industry than cholesterol-lowering drugs— a nearly $30 billion dollar a year business! The food industry has made a fortune by capitalizing on cholesterol’s bad boy image by slapping “low-cholesterol” and “zero cholesterol” labels on packaged, processed foods. Junk foods are sold as health foods based not on what they contain (which is often little to nothing actually good for you) but upon the well-marketed idea that they don’t contain much or any cholesterol. It seems on any given day most people would go further out of their way to avoid getting even a molecule of cholesterol in their blood or in their food than they would to avoid a landmine. The obsession with cholesterol almost seems to border on hysteria.

Whenever I do a functional blood chemistry evaluation for people and their results come back to me from the lab, the very first question anyone seems to ask is “How’s my cholesterol?” People are fixated on it; as though there could be no more dreaded news than anyone hearing that they have (*gasp*)”high” cholesterol! Most people don’t even realize that these official lines of demarcation attributed to what defines “high” cholesterol were established in a purely arbitrary fashion, never even based on anything scientific.[1] Those fabricated thresholds certainly do inspire a lot of prescription writing, however, much to the delight of those selling highly profitable statin (cholesterol lowering) medications.

So what’s the story behind this ugly duckling—this otherwise unassuming substance called “cholesterol” we have all come to fear and loathe?


Cholesterol, often confused as being a form of fat, is actually a sterol (alcohol). It is made in your liver, and every cell in your body has a means of manufacturing its own supply. Why would your body actually manufacture something that is supposedly so bad for you?? Good question. The answer should be obvious: Cholesterol has a vital role to play in your health. It’s actually not bad for you at all. It never was.


Humans have consumed foods containing cholesterol from the very beginning of our evolutionary history. In fact, we have always eaten a diet fairly rich in sources of naturally occurring cholesterol. It wasn't a source of health problems then and it isn't the source of health problems for us now.

Dietary cholesterol, by the way, actually has a very small role to play when it comes to influencing your serum cholesterol levels. At any given time, you have anywhere from 100,000 to 150,000 mg of cholesterol throughout every cell and tissue in your body engaged in any one of a number of things vital to your health and functioning. Only a very small percentage of your total body cholesterol actually shows up in your bloodstream as serum cholesterol. Imagine that you have, say, 150,000 mg of total cholesterol in your body and then you sit down and eat an egg (evil yolk and all) that has maybe a total of 60 mg of cholesterol in it. How much would you imagine this would impact that entire pool of cholesterol in your body, much less the little bit that showed up in your bloodstream? Hardly at all. In fact, there is almost no correlation between dietary cholesterol in serum cholesterol.


Answer: ONE.

Huh? What about HDL, the “good” cholesterol and LDL, the “bad” cholesterol?

Answer: HDL stands for “high density lipoprotein” and LDL stands for “low-density lipoprotein”. Do you see the word “cholesterol” in there anywhere? No! That’s because HDL and LDL are not cholesterol! They are lipoprotein carriers that work throughout the body to carry cholesterol and other fat-soluble nutrients to and from your cells. 75% of the cholesterol in your body is carried by LDL, which your body uses in order to manufacture hormones, improve the function of cellular receptors, supply your cells with fat-soluble nutrients, manufacture bile, and repair damage to your cells and tissues. –Notice that I didn’t mention anything about its supposed role in plaqueing up your arteries. That’s because it doesn’t. Fully 80% of what plugs up your arteries in atherosclerosis is neither saturated fat OR cholesterol, but instead oxidized/rancid unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats![2] It operates in your body a bit like duct tape—patching up lesions and repairing damage as it can. It has antioxidant and reparative effects.

LDL is manufactured in the liver and carries cholesterol and other nutrients out to the periphery of your body where it can be used for numerous beneficial purposes. HDL, on the other hand picks up spent and damaged cholesterol and brings it back to the liver so that it can be recycled back into–you guessed it–LDL! When more cholesterol is needed for some purpose in your body the production of HDL and/or LDL increases accordingly. It is generally recognized that higher levels of HDL (between 55 and about 75 mg/dL) seem to be associated with better health. Want healthier looking HDL? Then eat protein and fat and skip the sugar and starch. It’s as simple as that.

With LDL, the total number isn’t nearly as important as the type of LDL. Normal, healthy LDL particles are large and “fluffy”, and tend to be beneficial. However, in the presence of insulin and elevated glucose/blood sugar levels LDL can become small and “dense”. This small and dense form of LDL is then capable of plugging up the tiny openings, or channels in your arteries that bring nutrients in and take waste products out. This can lead to an inflammatory response that may be associated with greater cardiovascular risk. That said, the culprit isn’t in cholesterol or even saturated fat. The culprit is actually excess dietary carbohydrates (sugar and starch) leading to the overproduction of small particle LDL. Interestingly, statin drugs are worthless when it comes to doing anything about this type of LDL. Once you reduce or eliminate sugar and starch consumption and restore insulin sensitivity, however, small dense LDL tends to simply go away. There has been a popular recent trend toward testing for LDL particle size in blood chemistry labs to break all this down. In my experience, plenty of other indicators will likely point to whether or not carbohydrates in the diet need to be reduced, which would be the only viable treatment for small particle LDL, anyway. Interestingly, low levels of HDL (below @ 55 mg/dL) nearly always reveal the presence of a dietary “carbovore”.

When it comes to HDL, by the way, more is not necessarily better, as is often believed. HDL is involved with inflammatory response in the body. The presence of HDL in excess of about 75 to 80 mg/dL (where it isn’t simply a hereditary tendency) may be associated with a nonspecific inflammatory response. Other blood chemistry indicators, in this instance, can help better point to the source of the problem.

“No tightly controlled clinical trial has ever conclusively demonstrated that LDL cholesterol reductions can prevent cardiovascular disease or increase longevity.”


“The concept that LDL is bad cholesterol is a simplistic and scientifically untenable hypothesis.” [3]

And then there’s this:

“Despite more aggressive interventions by lowering LDL-C levels, the majority of CAD (coronary artery disease) events go undeterred [not prevented]…” [4]

The latter study also showed a strong link between statin use and cancer risk, by the way.


Answer: In a word, YES: Oxidized cholesterol.

Excessive heat in cooking (or cholesterol containing foods that have been sitting around for too long exposed to oxygen) can lead to damage of the cholesterol contained in food, as well as cause the accompanying fats to become rancid. Damaged cholesterol and rancid fats create damaging free radical activity and inflammation. Obviously, oxidized and rancid anything isn’t good for anybody. The primary sources of oxidized cholesterol in the average diet include fried and overcooked foods, processed foods, pasteurized and especially ultra-pasteurized dairy products (like milk—regular and especially powdered–and cheese), aged meats (like salami, etc.), and powdered eggs. Dietary sugars also add inflammation and free radical activity in the body that can lead to the oxidation of your own cholesterol. –Is a solution to this issue a cholesterol-lowering drug? NO. The solution lies in the avoidance of creating and/or eating oxidized sources of cholesterol and dietary sugars in the first place!

Other than this, I can think of no reason anyone would want to avoid cholesterol containing foods or panic over an “elevated” cholesterol number in a blood chemistry report.

A few things you might not know about cholesterol might just surprise you.


  • Up to 2,000 mg of cholesterol are produced inside the human body each and every day—several times amount found in anyone’s diet
  • Cholesterol actually functions in your body as an antioxidant![5],[6]
  • Significant amounts of cholesterol have always existed in the human diet.
  • 60% of human breast milk is made up of cholesterol. It is ESSENTIAL for the growth and development of an infant’s brain and nervous system!
  • Adequate dietary cholesterol actually lessens the internal production of cholesterol
  • Cholesterol is your body’s version of duct tape. Cholesterol goes to wherever it is needed to patch up arterial damage and/or maintain cellular integrity
  • Cholesterol is critical for your gut health and integrity. It may help protect your gut lining from inflammation and an exaggerated immune response.
  • Up to 75% of all people who die of heart attacks have what is considered to be “normal” cholesterol levels.[7]
  • Cholesterol is utterly crucial to brain function. Cholesterol plays a critical role in the formation of your brain’s neuronal connections—the vital links that underlie memory and learning. Cholesterol is found in your nerve sheaths, and in the white matter of your brain. It NEEDS to be there! You cannot have healthy cognitive functioning without it!
  • Fully 25% of your body’s entire repository of cholesterol lies in your brain and it had better be there! It protects nerve cells and literally speeds the brain’s operation in all areas, including thought process, recall, and speech. It is also the building block for synapses, the areas between cells that transmit messages.
  • Cholesterol helps keep your moods level by stabilizing neurotransmitters and playing a key role in receptor function.
  • Cholesterol is an essential constituent of steroid hormones (including your important stress hormones) and vitamin D, which increasing evidence suggests has disease-protective properties, particularly with regard to cancer prevention.
  • “Elevated” cholesterol (an arbitrary and non-scientific determination) is merely an intermediate indicator and rarely—if EVER a problem, in and of itself

Even though every cell in the human body has a mechanism to manufacture its own supply of cholesterol[8] it is quite difficult and inefficient to do so and involves a roughly 30-step, highly complex biochemical process. The major source of cholesterol production in your body is your liver, but it is difficult to make so eating sufficient cholesterol can help give your hard working liver a break.

In fact, dietary cholesterol is so important that 90% of the cholesterol you consume is actually reabsorbed by your gut so it can be used again! When you attempt to eat a low cholesterol diet your body perceives this is a bit of a crisis and attempts to compensate by increasing the production of a liver enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase, which makes up for the deficit by increasing the production of cholesterol from a different substrate; namely carbohydrates (sugars and starches)! This is another reason why diets high in sugar and starch can lead elevated levels of serum cholesterol, even on a very low fat/low-cholesterol diet.   In fact, what cholesterol-lowering medications actually do is suppress your production of HMG-CoA reductase. Also, the dietary intake of cholesterol helps stop the internal production of cholesterol.[9] Of course, they won’t bother telling you that you could avoid all the potentially horrific side effects of these absurd medications by simply reducing or eliminating your sugar and starch intake and starting to eat cholesterol rich foods again.

–That would unfortunately cut into medication profits.

Nevertheless, taking statin drugs in an effort to lower serum cholesterol is essentially the equivalent of “shooting the fireman that come to put out the fire–and then blaming them for the fire.

Supposedly “elevated” cholesterol levels in a blood chemistry lab result are only meaningful as an intermediate indicator of other things going on for which cholesterol may be needed. Cholesterol is never, ever an endpoint indicator, in and of itself. –It is always, ALWAYS, pointing to something else.

Higher cholesterol levels can be associated with any one or more of numerous conditions, including thyroid issues, infections, inflammation, dysbiosis, and even stress! One of the most common and surprising causes of elevated cholesterol is a diet high in sugars and starches, which are known to increase free radical activity and inflammation—leading to a greatly increased need for cholesterol. In any case, cholesterol is not (I repeat: NOT) e-v-e-r the primary issue! And lowering cholesterol will not help any of these conditions any more than unscrewing the bulb on the engine light on your dashboard will somehow magically fix your car’s engine problem.


Be happy cholesterol is there and doing its job trying to help you, but then lift up the hood to find out what's really going on. If cholesterol is higher it might be trying to tell you something you need to hear. You need to dig deeper for any real answers (and statins are never an answer). Just don’t blame the messenger!

And cholesterol is no more the “cause” of heart disease than grey hair is the cause of old age. –The only difference is that at least the gray hair and old age have some meaningful association.


Although elevated cholesterol can at times be associated with certain unhealthy conditions and this has been frequently conflated in the literature, understand that association is NOT causation!!!

Independent research not being paid for or ghostwritten by pharmaceutical companies attempting to sell their cholesterol-lowering medications (i.e., statins) are emerging almost daily to refute outdated assumptions about this critical nutrient.

A recent meta-analysis study in Norway done through the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and referred to as the Norwegian Hunt 2 study clearly and conclusively showed that women with high cholesterol actually live longer and suffer from fewer heart attacks and strokes than those with lower cholesterol! Wow! Men similarly showed no ill effects from supposedly “elevated” serum cholesterol.

The authors concluded: “Our study provides an updated epidemiological indication of possible errors (gee—ya think?) in the CVD (cardiovascular disease) risk algorithms of many clinical guidelines. If our findings are generalizable, clinical and public health recommendations regarding the ‘dangers’ of cholesterol should be revised. This is especially true for women for whom moderately elevated cholesterol (by current standards) may prove to be not only harmless but even beneficial.” [10] (italicized comment in parentheses and bold emphasis mine)


“Our findings do not support the hypothesis that hypercholesterolemia [high LDL cholesterol levels] or low HDL-C [high-density lipoprotein cholesterol-a.k.a. “good” cholesterol] are important risk factors for all-cause mortality, coronary heart disease mortality, or hospitalization for myocardial infarction or unstable angina in this cohort of persons older than 70 years.” [11]


The Japan Society for Lipid Nutrition has drawn up new guidelines stating that high cholesterol levels are actually better for living longer.

Tomohito Hamazaki, a professor at Toyama University’s Institute of Natural Medicine, who compiled the new cholesterol levels guidelines for the Japan Society for Lipid Nutrition says: “When examining all causes of death, such as cancer, pneumonia and heart disease, the number of deaths attributable to LDL cholesterol levels exceeding 140 mg/dl is less than people with lower LDL cholesterol levels.”

According to a eight-year study of about 26,000 men and women in Isehara, Kanagawa Prefecture, the death rate of men whose LDL cholesterol levels were between 100 mg/dl and 160 mg/dl was low, while the rate rose for those with LDL cholesterol levels of less than 100 mg/dl! [12]

The LDL figures exhibited less influence on women, but the death rate still rose for women with LDL cholesterol levels less than 120 mg/dl.

“Cholesterol is an essential component for the creation of cell membranes and hormones. It’s not recommended to lower LDL figures by means of dietary intake and medication,” stated Hamazaki.

“When women reach menopause, their cholesterol figures rise sharply, yet do not affect the arteriosclerosis process or development of heart diseases. At the very least, cholesterol criteria is not necessary for women,” -Hiroyuki Tanaka, director of Niko Clinic in Takeo, Saga Prefecture.

This study, along with other studies, leads one to the conclusion that optimal LDL levels are within the 120-160 mg/dl range.

A separate study of 16,850 patients nationwide who suffered cerebral stroke showed the death rate of people with hyperlipemia who died from a cerebral stroke was lower, and their symptoms more slight.

In other words—simply put—less is anything but more when it comes to cholesterol.


Answer: –Cholesterol that is too low!

SAY WHAT?? Now I really AM confused!

Yep—if you don’t believe me, take it from 30 years of follow up with the Framingham Heart Study:

“In people with a falling cholesterol level (over the first 14 years of the study), for each 1% mg/dl drop in cholesterol there was an 11 percent increase in all-cause mortality over the next 18 years.” [13] (JAMA 1987;257:2176-2180)

The fact is that cholesterol levels that are too low (below 150 mg/dl) are associated with many more health risks and causes of death than so-called “elevated” cholesterol.   The documented risks include:

Do you REALLY want to lower your cholesterol????

In a peer-reviewed paper written for the British Medical Journal where lowering cholesterol levels using medication resulted in a doubling of deaths related to violence and suicide, the authors were forced to conclude that “The association between reduction of cholesterol concentrations and death not due to illness warrants further investigation. Additionally, the failure of cholesterol lowering to affect overall survival justifies a more cautious appraisal of the probable benefits of reducing cholesterol concentrations in the general population.”[65]

Well-designed studies have shown the link between cholesterol-lowering drug use and cancer.[66] The fact is, that the correlation between low cholesterol levels and increased incidence of numerous forms of cancer is almost staggering. One study referred to as the Renfrew and Paisley Survey started out studying the potential impact of cholesterol on heart disease but discovered the fact that cancers rose dramatically with lowered cholesterol levels. They concluded that any supposedly reduction in heart disease-related deaths was more than offset buying increasing cancers– and in particular, lung cancer. Their findings were published in the British Medical Journal[67]

In the peer reviewed medical journal, Lancet, Professor Michael Oliver speculated as to the mechanism behind low-cholesterol and significantly increased risk of cancer by pointing to the role that cholesterol plays in the integrity of our cell membranes. He said:

“Normal cell activity depends . . . on membrane function and permeability. This is partly dependent on the balance . . . between cholesterol and saturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. The possibility that normal membrane function is impaired when there is a disproportionate decrease in cholesterol, with resulting loss of resistance to cancerous change, has to remain on the agenda of the risk/benefits of lowering plasma cholesterol.” [68]

Specific cancers linked to low cholesterol levels include squamous cell and small cell lung cancers (Int J Mol Med. 2000), liver cancer (J Intern Med 2003), multiple myeloma (Minerva Med 1983), adrenal cancer (J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1995), blood cancers including lymphoma, acute leukemia, chronic myeloid leukemia, chronic myelomonocytic leukemia, policytemia vera, myeloma, chronic lymphoid leukemia (Sangre (Barc) 1997), hairy cell leukemia (Am J Hematol 1997), brain cancers (J Neurooncol 1999), and gastrointestinal cancers (J Exp Clin Cancer Res 2004). (Citations footnoted below).

Some studies have attempted to show protective effects with respect to statins and cancer, but there is far more to refute that claim than support it. According to a large meta-analysis study based on 26 randomized controlled trials looking at statins and cancer incidence/cancer death that included a total of 86,936 participants:

“In our current meta-analysis, statins did not reduce the incidence of cancer or cancer death.” (JAMA. 2006)[69]       Shocking. Not.

Do we REALLY want to lower our cholesterol THAT badly? Is it REALLY worth it?

Also, in this tenuous time period in history in an overpopulated world with air travel, we all face an increased risk of pandemics and infections of all kinds. Antibiotics are no longer the answer in an increasing number of cases. We all need strong internal defenses. It’s important to point out the critical importance of cholesterol in supporting your immune function, overall. Reducing your cholesterol increases your risk of succumbing to any number of infections. We need cholesterol for the proper functioning of our blood cells; particularly macrophages and leukocytes that play critical roles in our immune system and help us combat infection. This is one reason why depressed cholesterol levels seem to impair our ability to fight infections. There is a very statistically significant association between statins and reduced risk of infection (possibly even atherosclerosis!). [70],[71] The overzealousness of medical authorities to lower everyone’s cholesterol using outdated dietary recommendations and dangerous cholesterol-lowering medications may be helping to pave the way for the next pandemic.[72],[73] If you happen to be hospitalized your risk of a postoperative infection increases exponentially if you don’t happen to have enough cholesterol and your recovery will be poorer![74],[75],[76],[77],[78],[79] Conversely, “LDL cholesterol” has even shown itself to be effective against Staph aureus/MRSA! Renowned cholesterol researcher, Uffe Ravnskov found in a research study he authored that: “There is much evidence that blood lipids play a key role in the immune defense system. Bacterial endotoxin and Staphylococcus aureus α-toxin bind rapidly to and become inactivated by low-density-lipoprotein (LDL).”[80] WOW.

Low cholesterol levels have been consistently associated with reduced longevity and all cause mortality. One particular study published in the peer-reviewed British Medical Journal in 1993, called this issue into question. Its author, Dr. M.G. Dunnigan noted that both primary and secondary trials were showing an excessive number of deaths from non-cardiac-related causes, such as cancer, violence and suicide. He was forced to conclude:

“Without definite data on all-cause mortality and with current unresolved concerns about excess deaths from non-cardiac causes in randomized controlled trials, decisions to embark on lifelong lipid lowering drug treatment in most patients with primary hypercholesterolaemia depend on the doctor’s interpretation of available evidence. As in other situations in which certainty is illusory, this varies from evangelical enthusiasm for lowering lipid concentrations to therapeutic nihilism.”[81]

In fact, in an article published in USA Today, titled ‘Warning labels urged for cholesterol drugs’ journalist Steve Sternberg reported that, “Statins have killed and injured more people than the government has acknowledged.”[82]

In one peer-reviewed research study analyzing 1,134 patients with heart disease, researchers found the low-cholesterol was actually associated with worse outcomes in heart failure patients in the lower survival rates; while “high” cholesterol levels improved their survival rates! [83] Statin use has also been associated with increased rates of actual heart failure! [84],[85],[86],[87] One very good reason for this involves the fact that the very medications used to lower cholesterol also drastically lower the single most important nutrient for the heart: Coenzyme Q 10. This also has the effect of damaging the liver. In fact, claims by pharmaceutical manufacturers that statin drugs reduce levels of inflammatory C-reactive protein (CRP) failed to mention why. C-reactive protein is actually manufactured in the liver. The adverse/damaging impact of statins upon the liver ultimately impairs the liver’s ability to produce CRP. I would hardly look upon this as either a beneficial or any sort of “anti-inflammatory” effect. It’s like making a person bald by exposing them to radiation and then citing the lack of gray hair as evidence of an anti-aging effect.

Prior to World War II, Japan suffered a very large death rate from cerebral hemorrhage and strokes. Following the war, there was an increase in cholesterol levels due to dietary changes. The beneficial impact on incidence of the stroke and cerebral hemorrhage was dramatic! During the period that cholesterol levels rose from 3.9 mmol/l to 5.0 mmol/l[88] the rate of both occlusive and hemorrhagic stroke actually plummeted by 85% per year![89] Researchers and investigators ultimately attributed the dramatic decline in death rates due to stroke to an increase in serum cholesterol levels over that period![90]   These were some of the findings:

  • Stroke deaths declined by 61% for men aged 40-69
  • Deaths from cerebral hemorrhage declined by 65% in men and 94% in women aged 40-69.
  • Even though blood cholesterol went up, there was no increase in heart disease deaths in either sex.

The authors of this study concluded that the benefits to health in Japan were a result of a fall in blood pressure and a rise in total cholesterol.

A follow-up study by the Institute of community medicine, at the University of Tsukaba, Japan confirmed these earlier findings over a 30-year period. Stroke deaths were down by 30% and heart disease death and also fallen by 20%.[91]

Another effect of excessively low cholesterol is that of cognitive impairment and greater risk of dementias and Alzheimer’s disease. This one is near and dear to my heart, as my own mother– who managed to somehow survive two different cancers (also a hint)– currently suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s disease. She has consistently maintained a cholesterol level well below 150 mg/dL, much to the delight and encouragement of her primary care physician. She has also dutifully avoided dietary saturated fat and cholesterol containing foods throughout her adult life as much is possible; having been married to a prominent radiologist who actually wrote the textbook on Cardiovascular Radiology. My father was also, by the way, very proud of his own low cholesterol levels. He died of a massive heart attack in 2006. They both used margarine instead of butter and my mother always tried to cook with polyunsaturated vegetable oils, based on mainstream medicine’s recommendations. Neither of my parents (that I am aware of) ever took cholesterol-lowering medications, but clearly low-cholesterol was not supportive of any positive health outcomes for either of them. They both suffered numerous health issues on multiple fronts throughout their lives, despite following medical dietary guidelines almost religiously.

Older people with low total cholesterol (under 200) are much more likely to perform poorly on tests of mental function than those of high cholesterol (over 240)[92] Research published in 2005 showed evidence of advanced cognitive decline in Statin users.[93]

There are nearly 1000 studies today showing the adverse potential effects of statin drugs on everything from your brain to your immune system. You might be wondering why your doctor doesn’t seem to know all this. Understand that medical schools are largely funded by the interest of pharmaceutical companies and that what is taught to medical students nearly always leans in favor of prescribing medications— particularly when it comes to the most profitable ones. Out of the many, many studies related to cholesterol and/or statin use published, few of these studies are ultimately read by most doctors. Physicians are unlikely to go searching for the evidence on their own and instead tend to rely upon what they are taught in medical school and by the drug reps that later come to solicit the sales of cholesterol-lowering medications. Out of all of the studies published on the subject, a mere handful of studies favorable to statin drugs are typically enthusiastically used for educational purposes and are widely quoted.[94]   Let’s just say that proponents of medication approaches aren’t often too eager to illuminate the mountain of peer-reviewed evidence that slays “big pharma’s” 30 billion dollar-a-year golden goose (i.e., statin drugs) and calls the entire dietary heart hypothesis into question.

In an article written for the Washington Post by journalist, Jerome P. Kassirer, titled “Why Should We Swallow What These Studies Say?” [95] the author writes:

“On July 13 (2004), the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP), part of the National Institutes of Health, unveiled tougher guidelines for cholesterol levels — guidelines so stringent that millions of Americans at risk of heart disease would have to take costly statin drugs to meet the new lower limits. What the NCEP didn’t unveil was that most panel members who helped write the recommendations had financial ties to the pharmaceutical companies that stood to gain enormously from increased use of statins.

Critics immediately complained about the hidden financial ties, and demanded disclosure. Within days, the highly respected sponsors of the cholesterol guidelines — the NIH, the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) — posted the disclosures on the NCEP’s Web site. The extent of the connections was stunning: Of the nine members of the panel that wrote the guidelines, six had each received research grants, speaking honoraria or consulting fees from at least three and in some cases all five of the manufacturers of statins; only one had no financial links at all.”

Kassirer also pointed out that: “Physicians and scientists with financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry should not have to disclose conflicts— they just shouldn’t be permitted to issue guidelines at all. But they are permitted, and do so routinely.”

The most commonly cited study in favor of low cholesterol/low-fat diets is called ‘The Lipid Research Clinics Coronary Primary Prevention Trial (LRC-CPPT)’.[96] In reality, it was a study mostly designed to measure the effects of a cholesterol-lowering drug. In this study, everyone was put on a low-fat/low cholesterol diet and then half of the subjects were also given a cholesterol-lowering drug in conjunction with that (–what I’d be inclined to call “double jeopardy”). For those that took the cholesterol-lowering medication, the drug was effective at lowering serum cholesterol levels by a whopping 24%. Yippee. Except that the side effects included cancer, stroke, suicide and other forms of violence. Other side effects included nerve damage, memory impairment, muscle damage (oh by the way, your heart is a muscle) and pain. –But hey—great job on lowering that cholesterol!

British Medical Journal’s (BMJ) editor, Richard Smith resigned his position in 2004. On his way out the door–in a rare whistle-blowing, insider, swan-song, tell-all moment–he expressed candid disdain and concern for all the biased articles and industry tainted publications in medical journal–all in a BMJ 21st May 2005 article. In it he stated: “Medical journals are no more than “an extension of the marketing arm of pharmaceutical companies” because a large proportion of their revenue comes from drug advertisements and reprints of company funded trials”, he said.

His strongest criticism was leveled at the fact that journals publish clinical trials that are funded by the industry. “Unlike advertisements (from which medical journals pull in a sizeable part of their income), clinical trials are seen by readers as the highest form of evidence”, he says. “Trials funded by drug companies rarely produce unfavourable results and make up between two thirds and three quarters of the trials published in key journals.”   Yep.

There is a legitimate question they can be asked about “the chicken versus the egg” in evaluating the adverse associations with low-cholesterol. Nonetheless, it is absolutely clear that less cholesterol is simply not desirable overall and there can be little positive outcome from restricting its dietary intake. It stands to reason that it is better to err on the side of sticking to what our ancestors instinctively knew: that animal source foods are essential for human survival and optimal health. It is what is most natural for literally all of us. It is how we were designed to eat in the first place.

One has to wonder whatever happened to the average physician’s basic grasp of anatomy, physiology and biochemistry–where cholesterol is clearly shown to play a myriad of critical roles within the human body. But then, one doesn’t go to medical school in order to study health– one attends medical school in order to study disease—and the treatment of the symptoms of disease with pharmaceuticals. “High cholesterol” is, in fact a fabricated disease for which profitable medications (having a wide range of potential side effects) are prescribed. It is up to us as to whether we choose to fill these prescriptions or not. Unless they begin adding statins to the water supply[97] in much the same way they forced fluoride upon us, we all have a choice as to whether we will listen to nature or a sales pitch.

As for me, please pass the lard.

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[6] Smith LL, “Another cholesterol hypothesis: cholesterol as antioxidant.” Free Radic Biol Med. 1991;11(1):47-61.

[7] Champeau, R. “Most heart attack patients’ cholesterol levels did not indicate cardiac risk.” UCLA Newsroom, 2009. http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/majority-of-hospitalized-heart-75668.aspx

[8] Erdmann, R and Jones, M., 1995. Fats That Can Save Your Life: The critical role of fats and oils in health and disease. London: Thorsons Publishing Limited

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[10] Halfdan Petursson, MD, Johann A Sigurdsson, MD Dr med, […], and Linn Getz, MD PhD. “Is the use of cholesterol in mortality risk algorithms in clinical guidelines valid? Ten years prospective data from the Norwegian HUNT 2 study” Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice. Feb 2012; 18(1): 159-168

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