For too long, conventional doctors have been convincing their patients to take statin medications that lower their LDL cholesterol – so-called “bad” cholesterol (also known as LDL-C) – because it can lead to blocked arteries.
The long-held belief is that lowering LDL cholesterol can improve heart health and reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke and heart failure. For the medical profession, this has become something like the Ten Commandments and the Nicene Creed combined.
One small problem with this: After reviewing the evidence that supposedly links lowering LDL cholesterol to improved heart health, a team of researchers announced that it does no such thing.
Statin drugs work against an enzyme that your body uses to make cholesterol, a process that happens mostly in the liver. Your body makes cholesterol because it’s vital for your survival. In fact, cholesterol is critical to the formation of cells, hormones, and the synthesis of vitamin D. One-fourth of your body’s cholesterol is in your brain, where it is absolutely essential to good health.
But ever since research began to show that decreasing LDL cholesterol reduces the risk of stroke and heart attack– in a review of 27 trials the reduction was 25 percent within two years– statins have been doled out like candy.1
However, the research is not cut and dried.
Many experts have challenged the findings and pointed to details such as the fact that the statin-lowering cholesterol benefits are most significant in those who’ve already had at least one cardiovascular event—not in the average Joe with high cholesterol. In other words, statins appear to be helpful in someone who’s already had a heart attack. For everyone else, the evidence is that they’re a waste of time if not downright harmful.
The latest research is a review study by an international team of researchers, including scientists at the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque, that shows how lowering LDL cholesterol to a so-called “healthy” level with drugs like statins didn’t improve overall heart health.
According to the researchers, lowering cholesterol with statin medicines “did not confer any additional benefit in a systematic review of 35 randomized controlled trials.”2
You Can’t Trust Doctors’ Intuition
The researchers add that although mainstream doctors and cardiologists have long believed that lowering LDL cholesterol improves heart health and wards off heart attacks and strokes, the published evidence for this “intuitive” belief is dead wrong. They don’t mince words: “decades of research have failed to show any consistent benefit for this approach.”
Instead, these scientists warn that the current therapies for fending off heart issues by simply looking at levels of LDLs and trying to bring them down ends up treating “those at low risk, who don’t need treatment” and fails to identify folks at a high risk who need real help with their cardiovascular problems to avoid heart attack and stroke.
The reality is that, for many people, it’s a good thing to have a higher LDL level than what doctors call “healthy”.
LDL May Help You Live Longer
Researchers at the University of South Florida examined studies involving about 68,000 people and found that in folks over the age of 60, those with high levels of LDL generally live longer than people with lower levels of LDL. In conclusion, these researchers called for a reevaluation of the need for drugs like statins to reduce high LDL cholesterol.3
“We found that several studies reported not only a lack of association between low LDL-C (and longevity), but most people in these studies exhibited an inverse relationship, which means that higher LDL-C among the elderly is often associated with longer life,” says researcher David Diamond. [Emphasis added.]
Dr. Diamond also points out that you need LDL cholesterol to help your body fight off the illnesses that aging can bring on. For example, higher LDL cholesterol may lower your risk of neurological problems like Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.
In addition, he notes that LDL cholesterol may offer protection against cancer and infections, so lowering your levels can make you more vulnerable to these problems.
“Our findings provide a contradiction to the cholesterol hypothesis,” says Dr. Diamond. “That hypothesis predicts that cardiovascular disease starts in middle age as a result of high LDL-C cholesterol, worsens with aging, and eventually leads to death from cardiovascular disease. We did not find that trend. If LDL-C is accumulating in arteries over a lifetime to cause heart disease, then why is it that elderly people with the highest LDL-C live the longest? Since people over the age of 60 with high LDL-C live the longest, why should we lower it?”
I agree completely.
Why the Myth About High Cholesterol?
Dr. Diamond and the other researchers have finally unveiled the untruths in our mainstream medical establishment’s obsession with cholesterol. For too long, the belief in cholesterol as the driving force behind heart disease has reigned unchallenged in mainstream medicine and studies proving otherwise are quietly swept under the rug.
I believe the reason is clear: Big Pharma makes a bundle on statin medications.
For instance, Lipitor, the gold standard of statins, continues to generate roughly $2 billion every year in sales for drug giant Pfizer—and its patent expired eight years ago! What’s more, there are half a dozen generic forms of Lipitor as well as numerous other cholesterol-lowering drugs also making a mint.4
The other reason, I suspect, is that doctors can’t be wrong. And abandoning the cholesterol theory would require them to eat a ton of crow, with a big helping of humble pie for dessert.
Statins are currently one of the most prescribed medicines in the U.S., with 35 million people taking them— not to mention millions more statin users outside the U.S.
Think about that: a stupefying 35 million people are taking a drug not to treat a disease but to prevent it – and the drug doesn’t work! What’s more, this has been known for at least two decades.
And don’t get me started on the side effects. Surveys have shown that only 32 percent of people take statin drugs exactly as prescribed by their doctor because of side effects like muscle pain, memory loss and even high blood sugar. Some people have descended into full-blown dementia because they took statin drugs. Fortunately, the condition reverses if you go off the drug.
All of this from a medical establishment that pitched a fit over the side effects (almost totally imaginary) of hydroxychloroquine, a safe drug backed by strong clinical data that could probably have saved tens of thousands of people who died from COVID-19. As with Lipitor, I suspect the reason is that they expect to make billions from the vaccines in the works and from their dubious patented treatments like Remdesivir. Add in a dose of antipathy to Trump, and their usual belief that “if we didn’t think of it, it can’t be effective,” and you have what sure looks to me like a case of mass murder for political and financial gain.
Frankly, I am at the point where I have almost no faith in the medical establishment. Too often, their advice is hazardous to your health. They have earned and deserve our contempt.
In my view, unless you’ve had a heart attack or stroke already, it’s time to let the high cholesterol myth die – especially if you want to live longer.
I practice what I preach. My cholesterol is so high I probably should be pushing up daisies by now. I’ve resisted pressure from a series of doctors over the last 25 years to do something about my cholesterol.
I exercise, my weight is good and I eat a healthy diet. No sign of heart disease.
I’m not a doctor, I’m just a journalist. You have to decide for yourself whether to wager on mainstream medical advice or trust the studies we summarized above (plus many others we’ve covered over the years.)
- Cholesterol Treatment Trialists’ (CTT) Collaborators. The effects of lowering LDL cholesterol with statin
therapy in people at low risk of vascular disease: meta-analysis of individual data from 27 randomised
trials. Lancet. 2012;380(9841):581-590. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)60367-5.