I find that so many of my patients are confused and worried about their cholesterol.  Hopefully, I can shed some light on this subject for you.  The Cholesterol Myth goes something like this: Eating saturated fats like butter, eggs, and fatty meat raises your cholesterol levels, which in turn clogs up you arteries and eventually gives you a heart attack.  The problem with this theory is that it contrary to the basic physiological principles that the body operates under.

Let’s look at the facts:

  1. Your body cannot be healthy without cholesterol.  75% of our cholesterol is made by our liver. Cholesterol is the source of our hormones, Vitamin D, and bile salts.
  2. 25% of your body’s cholesterol is in your brain.  It forms the myelin sheath around all your nerves, which cannot function without it.
  3. Cholesterol is found in every cell in the body, and is critical to normal cell function and cell repair.
  4. Cholesterol plays an important role in regulating protein pathways involved in cell signaling, so is critical for cellular communication.
  5. There is mounting evidence that low cholesterol levels may lead to dementia, depression, violent behavior, neurological problems, and other adverse effects.

cholesterol levels infographic

So what gives?  How can something that is so important to our body’s basic functioning be so demonized and deadly that we now have over 40 million people in the US taking statin drugs to lower their cholesterol.  Who is really benefiting from The Cholesterol Myth; the patient or the pharmaceutical companies?  Again let’s look at what the actual scientific research tells us:

  1. A recent review of clinical and population studies involving 659,304 people from 18 countries found no link between the consumption of saturated fats and heart disease. The authors concluded that their analysis of the data”did not yield clearly supportive evidence for current cardiovascular guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fats (vegetable oils) and low consumption of saturated fats (Chowhury et al. Association of Dietary, Circulating,and Supplement Fatty Acids With Coronary Risk.  A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Ann Internal Med 2014)
  2. Cardiovascular researchers Dr. Rozenn Lemaitre and James DiNicolantonio both challenge the idea that replacing saturated fats with Omega 6 rich vegetable oils. When looking at clinical trials that replaced saturated fats with Omega 6 fats there was an actual increase in coronary heart disease and cardiovascular death.
  3. Most researchers in cardiovascular medicine have concluded that inflammation, not cholesterol, is the causative factor in cardiovascular disease.  The most preventable cause of inflammation is the Standard American Diet(SAD), which is high in sugar, processed foods and carbohydrates, and Omega 6 and trans-fats.
  4. Research does not show that statin drugs do not significantly decrease the incidence of cardiovascular mortality.  Statin drugs interfere with your body’s production of CoQ10, an essential heart nutrient. They also have serious side effects including peripheral nerve damage, muscle weakness, Type 2 Diabetes, kidney and liver damage, and memory loss and confusion.
  5. Evidence is mounting that cholesterol levels

This video clip from the documentary “Statin Nation” gives some of the background behind the statin “industry”.

This article is based on my personal research is and is not intended as medical advice.  I am not recommending that you stop taking a statin drug if you are already doing so.  Any changes in medication are a personal decision, and should be based on your own research and consultation with your doctor.  If you want to do further reading about cholesterol and the science behind it I recommend starting with Gary Taubes’ book ” Why We Get Fat And What To Do About It”.

On a personal note, I saw my cholesterol level drop by over 30 points when I changed my diet to a more “paleo” way of eating.  That means I ate far fewer carbs from sugar, grains and processed foods and added in more saturated fats such s butter, eggs, meat, fish, avocados, coconut oil etc.  My weight also dropped from 187 lbs to 165 lbs.  I have seen similar results in several of my patients who have made similar changes in their diets.