By Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, and Stephen Sinatra, MD, FACN
Cholesterol is a very misunderstood molecule.
And though many people might not be aware of it, there has long been a vocal minority of doctors, researchers and health professionals who believe that cholesterol and fat have been wrongly convicted as the primary promoters of heart disease. Along with many of our fellow health professionals, we believe that this emphasis on cholesterol has caused us to take our attention off what we believe to be the true promoters of heart diseases – inflammation, oxidative damage, stress and sugar.
We believe the evidence against cholesterol as a causal factor in heart disease is much weaker than was previously believed, and we make our case in our new book, The Great Cholesterol Myth, complete with hundreds of medical references from peer-reviewed journals. We also believe that the statin drugs given to lower cholesterol are being over-prescribed, and are not without significant side effects.
Cholesterol is needed for life. It’s the parent molecule for all the major sex hormones, including estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. It’s needed for the immune system, and it’s needed for the brain. (In fact, one of the most serious side effects of cholesterol-lowering medication is memory loss.)
As we stated on the Dr. Oz Show: “Trying to prevent heart disease by lowering cholesterol is like trying to reduce calories by taking the lettuce off your double cheeseburger. It’s not that the lettuce doesn’t have any calories – it’s that it’s the wrong target.
And cholesterol is the wrong target if you’re trying to prevent heart disease.
We fervently believe that neither cholesterol nor fat is the major villain in the American diet – sugar is. We also believe that the case against cholesterol, which was made nearly 30 years ago, was based on faulty evidence. The case needs to be re-opened and the evidence needs to be re-examined.
Belief in the “Great Cholesterol Myth” has caused us to neglect the real causes of heart disease while obsessively focused on an innocuous molecule that’s essential for life and that we believe has only a minor role in heart disease.
Here are executive summaries of eight of out favorite myths about cholesterol and heart disease.
MYTH: High cholesterol is the cause of heart disease.
FACT: Cholesterol is a fairly insignificant player in heart disease.
MYTH: High cholesterol is a good predictor of heart attacks.
FACT: High cholesterol is a lousy predictor of heart attacks. Half the people admitted to hospitals with heart disease have normal cholesterol, and plenty of people with elevated cholesterol have perfectly healthy hearts.
MYTH: Lowering cholesterol with statin drugs will prolong your life.
FACT: There is no data showing statins have any impact on longevity.
MYTH: Statin drugs are perfectly safe.
FACT: Statin drugs have significant side effects, including loss of memory and libido, muscle pain and fatigue, and approximately 65% of doctors don’t report those side effects. (1)
MYTH: Statin drugs are appropriate for men, women, children and the elderly.
FACT: The only group in which statins have been shown to have even a modest effect is in middle-aged men who’ve already had a heart attack. If you’re not in that group, you’ve got no business on a statin drug. (2)
MYTH: Saturated fat is dangerous.
FACT: Saturated fat is mostly neutral and may even have some health benefits. Recent peer-reviewed studies have shown no association of saturated fat with heart disease. (3)
MYTH: The higher your cholesterol, the shorter your lifespan.
FACT: In the Framingham Study, the people who actually lived the longest had the highest cholesterol. (4)
MYTH: A high carbohydrate diet protects you from heart disease.
FACT: Diets that substitute carbohydrates for saturated fat actually increase the risk for heart disease. (5)
Cardiologist Stephen Sinatra and I have just co-authored “The Great Cholesterol Myth”, a book which blows cholesterol mythology out of the water, complete with over 200 scientific references. In it you’ll learn:
1) The real causes of heart disease (and what to do about them)
2) The real dietary culprits in heart disease (and saturated fat isn’t one of them)
3) Why the current cholesterol tests for “good” and “bad” cholesterol are completely out-of-date
4) The enormous dangers of statin drugs (and why they are under-reported by doctors)
5) A drug-free program for preventing heart disease
For that and much, much more, check out our new book, “The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Cholesterol Won’t Prevent Heart Disease and the Statin-Free Plan that Will”.
For more information about Jonny Bowden, please visit his website: www.jonnybowden.com.