Of all the blatant lies we have been told about our health over the years, there is one that sticks out as the most egregious of them all because it has failed to be proven by any reputable science or through human experience. And yet millions upon millions of Americans are currently taking a prescription medication for this condition because that’s what their doctor told them they needed to do to prevent the risk of heart disease. I’m of course referring to the cholesterol hypothesis.
We’ve all heard it throughout our lifetime that you better keep your cholesterol below 200 if you want to keep from having clogged arteries which could lead to a heart attack, stroke, or worse. These warnings have come from well-meaning physicians, dietitians, and other so-called health “experts” who are simply regurgitating what they have been taught in medical school, personal training, and from other sources.
One of those “other sources” of information are pharmaceutical companies which stand to profit greatly from a trumped-up condition that they can swoop in and come to the rescue of people with a susceptibility for atherosclerosis with a miracle pill. That’s exactly what Pfizer has done marketing Lipitor, Astra-Zeneca with Crestor, and Merck/Schering-Plough with Zetia. These prescription medications are meant to treat “high cholesterol,” but has anyone stopped to ask the obvious question that is that gigantic elephant in the room?
WHAT IS THE PROOF THAT HIGH CHOLESTEROL LEADS TO HEART DISEASE?
Surely you jest, Jimmy! Everyone KNOWS that you put yourself at risk when you allow your cholesterol, especially that dastardly LDL “bad” cholesterol, to rise above 200. Anyone who refuses to take a statin drug when their total cholesterol rises above this level is simply putting themselves at severe risk for some rather serious health consequences down the road. Why not just take your medicine like the rest of us are doing and put yourself out of harm’s way?
You’d be surprised how many people feel EXACTLY like that. We’ve been so cleverly sold a bill of goods about cholesterol that it’s almost sacrilegious to even suggest a contrary point of view without being looked at like you’re some kind of space alien. Of course, those of us who are livin’ la vida low-carb are already used to this kind of scrutiny, so what else is new? That said, what is the harm in taking a pill that supposedly will do you some good?
Well, there’s PLENTY of harm that can happen. Although cholesterol numbers have come way down from where they once were, what is the cost to our health that these reductions have produced. In my podcast interview with Dr. Jim LaValle last week, he said that if you put 250 people in a room and put them all on a statin drug and just ONE of them reduced their risk of heart disease as a result of this therapy, the pharmaceutical companies believe that is good enough to put the pill on the market for the masses. But what about those other 249 people? What is the impact of a statin drug on THEIR health?!
Let’s just be honest for a moment. Cholesterol drugs are about nothing more than one thing and one thing alone: MONEY! If there was no money to be had in reducing cholesterol numbers, then all this hoopla over cholesterol would never even exist. The fact is battling “high cholesterol” is big business and anything that stands in the way of that multi-BILLION dollar profit machine will be run over with a proverbial Mack truck! If word got out that livin’ la vida low-carb did more to improve your risk of heart disease than statin drugs, then there would be a lot of unhappy pharmaceutical reps who have made a healthy living selling the facade that “high cholesterol” will kill you.
Let’s talk about the pharmaceutical reps for a moment. Who died and made them the great purveyors of health knowledge in the United States? I understand doctors are limited on their time and ability to continue their education into the latest research that comes out about health. But why do the pharmaceutical companies get a free pass to waltz right into see my doctor–sometimes as many as six blaze in and out while I’m there–to explain about their new wonder drug for every ailment known to mankind? Can I have the same sort of privileges to go from doctor’s office to doctor’s office to give a presentation about the latest scientific evidence supporting a controlled-carb approach on weight and health? I think you know the answer.
So that’s the system we’re stuck with for now. Doctors go to medical school where they receive a grand total of maybe one week of nutritional education (two if they’re lucky!) and then are forced to rely on highly-paid drug company representatives to give them “unbiased” reporting on what they need to be giving their patients for high blood pressure, obesity, and high cholesterol. It’s the way we’ve always done it, so I guess we had better get used to it, right?
Not me. When I decided to go on the Atkins diet in 2004, I was sick and tired (literally!) of settling for the conventional wisdom for what constituted a “healthy” diet and instead chose a way of eating that would help me go on to shed 180 pounds. At the time when I still weighed over 400 pounds, I was taking Crestor after a very painful stint on Lipitor to control my “high cholesterol” which was around 250 at the time. They had me so scared of NOT taking this statin that I felt like it was my only option despite the agonizing pain these drugs have been shown to cause in more users than they even realize.
Nine months later after losing about 140 pounds, I decided to come off of statin drugs for good. And I’ve refused to take another one since because low-carb has worked better to make me healthier than I ever thought possible. And yet those boo birds in my head kept making a lot of noise in 2006 when I visited my doctor for a routine physical check-up. As soon as my doctor said I needed the “s” word again, I just about screamed! When I politely told him I would NOT be going back on Lipitor or Crestor again, he said he’d give me four months to lower my LDL down from 170 or else he would insist I take it.
When I presented this conundrum to my blog readers at the time, the general consensus was to avoid statins which I then began educating myself more about and learned why LDL and total cholesterol probably aren’t as big a deal as they have been made out to be. I learned from people like Dr. Jeff Volek that low-carb cholesterol concerns are unnecessary because the reality is that the HDL/triglyceride ratio is a much better marker for heart health than LDL and total cholesterol. And guess what raises HDL and lowers triglycerides significantly? Yep, it’s low-carb, baby! And a low-fat, high-carb diet does just the opposite according to the latest research. DUH!
Once you break through literally years of cholesterol indoctrination and instead challenge those who support the cholesterol hypothesis to prove having “high cholesterol” is unhealthy, then you are then ready to understand that there’s more to it than simple terms like “good” and “bad” cholesterol. The particle size of LDL is the BETTER way to determine if that cholesterol number you see is harmful or protective. The large, fluffy LDL are protective while the small, dense LDL particle size is what you need to be wary of. You can check out the particle size of your cholesterol by having a VAP test done or something similar that would give you the breakdown of these cholesterol subsets. It’s not as simple as LDL and total cholesterol anymore.
Oh, by the way, do any of these geniuses who put patients on a statin drug also recommend that they take a CoQ10 supplement since this is DEPLETED FROM YOUR BODY when you take one of these drugs? Hmmmm, I guess they just forgot to tell you that! OOPS! Or how about this study which found that having too LOW cholesterol levels leads to depression, suicide, and death? I guess that one slipped their minds, too! Double OOPS! But let’s also not forget the evidence that statins can lead to some vivid and vicious nightmares as well. Better make that a triple OOPS!
One of my readers frantically wrote to me an urgent message about their recent trip to the doctor and her diagnosis of “high cholesterol.” Here’s what she wrote:
I have been doing Atkins since April 2007 and have lost 40 pounds. I just recently went to my doctor and had some blood work done. I received the results and it came back that my cholesterol is too high. My LDL is around 250, my HDL is around 54 and my total cholesterol is at 300.
I don’t know what to do!! My doctor prescribed me Crestor, but I have heard awful things about it. What do you think I should do? I have been eating lean meats, fish and veggies and staying away from excessive salt intake. I don’t want to stop doing low-carb. Oh and I am exercising too! I appreciate any help or advice you can give me!!
I’m so glad she wrote to me because she is EXACTLY who I wanted this blog post to be for. She has been sold that bill of goods that her cholesterol is too high and the ONLY answer she has to this grave problem they have presented to her is to take a statin drug. Gee, imagine that! Sure didn’t see that one coming!
Let me just say that her HDL of 54 is great and I would be willing to bet her triglycerides are below 100. Dr. Mary C. Vernon has said that one of the surefire ways of knowing someone is low-carbing correctly is their HDL is above 50 and their triglycerides are under 100. If that’s the case, then her HDL/triglyceride ratio is FABULOUS and she really has nothing to worry about.
But what about the LDL and total cholesterol? Are they really irrelevant? Well, without seeing the results of her particle size test (which I don’t know if they ran or not), it’s impossible to know if she’s at risk with those numbers. But I do happen to know someone with similar numbers who did have a particle size test done recently–ME!
You’ll recall I went to see a low-carb doctor last month about my recent mysterious 30-pound weight gain and he ran my lipid profile numbers for me. When the results came back, they would no doubt be a bit stunning to someone who looks at cholesterol in a traditional way:
Total Cholesterol – 326
Total LDL – 246
Total HDL – 65
Triglycerides – 77
Insulin – 5.8
Yes, my total cholesterol is 326 and hopefully now you know why I don’t need to take a statin drug like Lipitor or Crestor to lower it. Check out my HDL/triglyceride ratio. It’s virtually 1-1 and that’s FANTASTIC! Note that my HDL is above 50 and my triglycerides are below 100–a sign that I’m livin’ la vida low-carb 100% right despite my weight gain. So what’s up with the LDL? Is the particle size where it needs to be?
The answer is YES! My doctor said that when he analyzed the LDL subset breakdown, he saw a clear majority of the LDL was the large, fluffy kind that you want to protect against cardiovascular problems and very few if any of the small, dense kind. So, despite my astronomical LDL number, it’s a non-factor. And neither is the total cholesterol. Keep in mind my HDL “good” cholesterol is high like it needs to be, so that contributes to the total number, too.
So if you’ve been to the doctor after being on a low-carb diet and you see numbers similar to mine and my reader’s cholesterol, don’t panic! Get your particle size so you can be armed with the facts about what to do in response. “High cholesterol” is a gimmick to sell more dangerous statin drugs to people who could stand to benefit from the healthy low-carb lifestyle. I’d never tell you what to do for YOUR health–that’s YOUR decision. But one thing is for certain. I’m NEVER gonna take a statin drug again!
And I don’t have to because I’m livin’ la vida low-carb!