February 09, 2012

Cholesterol - the 3 part series

Articles by Dr. Erdman are for informational purposes, and are not to be taken as specific medical advice.

Part 1
This week I am going to embark on a series of articles about cholesterol.  We are so misinformed about this necessary molecule.  Conventional medicine, based on fabricated data, has brought us to this point. Everyone is scared of cholesterol.  We’re told to check it every year, your health and life insurance premiums are partly based on this number.  It’s reported as a killer of thousands of people.  We’re excoriated to get your number down, no matter what it is.  I’ve had patients with a cholesterol number of 190 told they need to watch it, and were even prescribed a statin drug!

In this article, let’s take a look back in time to where this nonsense started, how it has been propagated over the years, and then see how medical “studies” are abused and misreported to mean whatever the guy paying for the study wants it to.

Conventional medicine has told us that the perfect diet for lowering your cholesterol and reducing your risk of a heart attack is a low-fat, low cholesterol diet.  I’m here to dispel that as complete fabrication and utterly false.  I’ll even go as far as to say the exact opposite is the real truth!  I will back that up by looking at the exact same data they used to come to that conclusion.  I will use only studies that have been published in medicines own peer reviewed scientific journals.  Much of this article will be quotes from conclusions made by authors and reviewers of these studies.

First, who came up with the theory that consuming cholesterol and dietary fat leads to chronic heart disease (CHD)?  A German pathologist, Rudolph Virchow, developed the cholesterol theory over 100 years ago.  It was solidified in the 1950’s with a study done by Dr. Ancel Keys called “The Seven Countries Study,” which came to the same conclusion.  The major problem with this study is that he actually studied 22 countries, not just 7.  He just picked out the seven countries that allowed his conclusion to be correct!  When all 22 countries studied were analyzed on even par, the proper conclusion is that there is NO correlation between a diet of cholesterol and fats and CHD!  

The Framingham Study, often cited as proof of the lipid hypothesis, said that lifestyle, habits and diet were all risk factors in CHD.  The link to cholesterol was weak, but widely touted.  Dr. William Castelli, an original director of this study, now says this: “…the more saturated fat one ate, the more cholesterol one ate, the more calories one ate, the lower the serum cholesterol… we found that those people weighed the least and were the most physically active.”  Stunning, huh?

Another study called U.S. Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial (MRFIT) , concluded that a low saturated fat and low cholesterol diet had a marginal reduction in CHD.  What did they not tell you?  They forgot to mention that this diet led to a higher mortality from all other causes including brain hemorrhage, suicide, cancer etc.  “After 10 years of lowering cholesterol intake and not smoking, they found no significant difference in death from heart disease or of total death compared to the control group of smokers, poor diets etc.,” says Mary Enig and Sally Fallon in “The Truth about Saturated Fats.” 

Here is a study called the “Lipid Research Clinics Coronary Primary Prevention Trial,” or LRC-CPPT.  The trial was reported to study dieting factors affecting CHD.  In reality it was a clinical trial for a new drug, cholestyramine, a supposed cholesterol lowering drug.  This quote from Dr. Curtis says it all; “After 10 years, the number dying from CHD plus those suffering non-fatal heart attacks were totaled for both groups.  The total incidence of the drug group was 7.0% and the control group 8.6%.  The initial criteria of the study said this small of a difference was not even going to be considered “statistically important” by the authors.  After the trial, the criteria were changed to allow for this minute, 1.6%, difference to be called “statistically important.”  This is where it gets interesting.  You’ve heard the saying “figures lie and liars figure?”  It applies here, statistics can say whatever you want, and here is one way they do it.

The authors of that study published this conclusion: “A 19% reduction in death and heart attack.”  How?  1.6% is about 19% of 8.6%; this is termed relative risk reduction.  The actual difference of just 1.6% is termed absolute risk reduction.  Absolute risk reduction is the decrease in risk of a particular treatment or drug in relation to a control group.

Let’s make up a clinical study to show this concept easier.  We’ll start with 200 people, half take a drug and half take a placebo.  We are studying rumgumption of the egg bag, a particularly fiendish disease my father often cites.  After five years of study, 2 people in the drug group develop it, compared to 4 in the placebo group.  Here are two possible headlines, that are both correct, yet one is highly deceptive:
“New Miracle Drug Cuts Rumgumption Risk by 50%” and “New Drug Results in 2% Drop of Rumgumption Risk”

The 50% cut in risk sounds so much better; you might take the drug just as a precaution.  But in the real world, out of 200 people, only 2 less people got the disease by taking the drug vs. those who ate sugar pills?  Now, would you still buy a $300 per month drug on those chances, especially once you consider the side effects?

The conclusion to be drawn from the first part of this series is that there is no scientific evidence for the current recommendation of a low fat, low cholesterol diet to reduce heart disease.  The other thing to take away is that you can’t simply accept the figures thrown at you in support of a particular treatment; they are probably true statements, just manipulated to sound better than reality.

Part 2
Part two of this cholesterol series starts where we left off. We were seeing how numbers can tell a wholly different story than reality, when studies are published. We will also look closely at what cholesterol is, how it is used by your body and why it is a necessary part of your diet.

Now that we know drug companies cite relative risk reduction instead of the more reality based absolute risk reduction, you simply must be made aware that statistics are easily manipulated. Dr. Uffe Ravnskov, MD, PhD has said the following when asked about statin drug trials:  “The outcome from the trials is a further demonstration that the small benefit from statin treatment has nothing to do with cholesterol. For instance, although cholesterol plummeted and remained at about 50% below the initial value during the whole SEAS trial, it did not change mortality (death rate), but it increased the number of cancers with statistical significance. Even worse was the result of the ENHANCE trial, where plaquing (atherosclerosis) in patients with familial hypercholesterolemia progressed (got worse) the most among those whose cholesterol was lowered the most.”  So, you can get worse plaquing with lower cholesterol numbers…really?  Isn’t plaquing of the arteries what you are trying to avoid by taking statins? When have you ever heard that from your statin pushing doctor? It’s what their own recent studies show! 

When asked if statins ever did actually show some usefulness in a particular group, who should take them. Dr. Ravnskov answered, “In my view, nobody. When I was practicing (medicine), I used to describe the benefit this way: Considering your age and your previous heart attack, your chance to be alive in 5 years is about 90%. You can increase that chance to 92% if you take a statin pill every day, but then you expose yourself to its many adverse effects.”

Here is a perfect example from my own family.  This 64 year old male has had a cholesterol reading above 275 for his entire adult life.  His father died at 46 years of age of a massive heart attack.  Every doctor he has ever seen has tried pushing statins on him. He tried them for a while, but the side effects were not tolerable. They didn’t do anything for his cholesterol levels. What could have they done to him? Well, he has had 2 different types of cancer in the years since taking them. In an overall healthy man, that is unusual, and cancer risk increases with statin use. He is not obese, exercises regularly and eats (generally) well. Last year he had a bit of chest pain off and on over several months. He decided to get it checked out. They did a catheterization to look at the arteries of his heart. Guess what they found? One artery with a maximum 60% blockage (normal for his age, and no treatment necessary), and the other 7 arteries were less than 20% blocked. How, then, can it be that cholesterol causes atherosclerosis, like medicine tells us?  Sure, that’s only one example, but it shoots the whole theory!

Cholesterol is one of the most indispensable molecules in your body. It is mandatory for building cells, for producing stress and sex hormones as well as vitamin D. The idea that cholesterol in the blood should kill us if it is above some normal number, as the Framingham Study suggests, is simply absurd.

There is no good or bad cholesterol, there is only one. Cholesterol is carried through the blood while bound to certain proteins. These combined molecules are called lipoproteins. Because fat (cholesterol) and water (blood) do not mix, fats are carried on the backs of proteins. HDL and LDL are lipoproteins; these can be beneficial or adverse. There are many sizes of lipoproteins, low density ones are the smallest, and the only ones that can be a problem. The others, HDL’s, are too big of a molecule to create the infiltration and oxidation of arterial walls, like LDL’s can.

HDL cholesterol is actually recycled in your body. It returns to the liver to continue its usefulness. If cholesterol is so evil, why does your body, designed by God, recycle it? It is vitally important, that’s why we conserve every last molecule we can!

We have been told by today’s medical professionals that cholesterol is bad because it clogs your arteries. Let’s go down to the cellular level and see what actually is occurring. Inflammation in your body is acutely good and chronically bad. The acute inflammatory response to an ankle sprain or injury is a good thing. It keeps you alive and begins the healing process. Chronic inflammation caused by carrying too much weight, eating proinflammatory foods etc., is a bad thing. It causes damage to arterial walls, creating cracks and crevices. These arteries are initially healed by scarring over with plaque. This plaque is not cholesterol, it is other metabolic substrates. This plaquing can and does indeed cause higher risk of high blood pressure and heart attacks by making arterial walls less supple, and ‘harder’.  But note that cholesterol is not even in the picture yet. Cholesterol is only released by the kidney as a “result” of the damage and plaquing. Cholesterol is sent in so your body can create new, healthy cells to repair the damaged, plaqued areas.  To reiterate, plaquing is bad, but it is not cholesterol doing the damage, it is the inflammation that is the bad guy here.
Now that we know inflammation is the true enemy, my previous article showing that high fructose corn syrup causes inflammation is even more pertinent.

Knowing your total cholesterol number means almost nothing. Even knowing the split between HDL and LDL tells you little about your cardiac health. A better test to determine your level of inflammation is the C - reactive protein (C-RP) levels in your blood. This number, when elevated, means you have significant inflammation of some area of the body. Elevated C-RP and homocystein levels are what prompted my relative to look for further answers to the cause of the elevated numbers, eventually finding the early stages of colon cancer. His vitamin D was a 16 mg/ml, another direct link to colon cancer.

Please keep in mind that cholesterol is your friend, not your enemy. We have been so completely deceived by medicine, and so engrained that cholesterol is evil. Put that myth to rest!

In the next and final article in this three part series, we will see how low cholesterol numbers affect your health, how high fat/low carb diets are better than low fat/high car diets, and ways you can improve your heart health and lower your risk of heart attack.

Part 3
Part one of this three part series gave you the scientific basis for cholesterol being a good molecule. Part two told you how to look at the results of studies with a more discerning eye, and what cholesterol is and how it is used for good in your body.

Today is part three, we will see how low cholesterol affects your health, why a high fat/low carb diet is drastically better than a high carb/low fat diet, and ways you can improve your diet for better heart, and overall, health.

Can your cholesterol get too low? Not according to conventional medicine. I’ve seen people with levels of 160 who were told to lower it even further! According to current research, the answer is, yes, it can be too low. Nasty things have been shown in those with super low cholesterol numbers. It wreaks havoc on your psyche so much that one study showed a suicide rate 6 times higher than those with the highest cholesterol readings. I once read a study that showed cholesterol readings of below 160 tripled your risk of stroke. Higher cancer rates and higher Parkinson’s rates have all been shown in groups with the lowest cholesterol. 
So what is normal? I advise my family that normal readings are anywhere from 200-300. That’s right, don’t fall over! Optimum is probably closer to 200 than 300, but everyone is so different.

You say, my doctor says to be under 200. Well, let’s examine how that came to be the “number.” According to Dr. Mercola, before 2004, a healthy LDL was considered to be 130 mg. Updated in 2004, it went to 100 mg and to 70 mg for “at risk” patients. In 2006, a review by the “Annals of Internal Medicine” found insufficient evidence for these numbers, and that the studies were flawed and outright overstated. 8 of 9 doctors on the panel were receiving money from drug companies that made statin drugs! So now, despite no evidence, the American Heart Association still recommends these numbers. The standard treatment is, of course, more drugs.

Do you remember just a few short years ago when the medicine men told you to never eat eggs and lessen red meat consumption for your heart? Are they now backing off of this? Yep. Why? Because the cholesterol you eat has no bearing on your cholesterol numbers. The reverse is actually true. The less saturated fat and animal fats you eat, the more heart disease you have. Why? Because without the fat in your diet to satiate your hunger, people turn to more food of other kinds, like grains and sugars and processed foods, which do cause inflammation. The Medical Research Council survey showed that men who ate real butter ran half the risk of developing heart disease as those using margarine. Ever heard that from your heart doctor? No way! He’d be taken to the ethics committee for malpractice in today’s world.

By increasing healthy fats, such as saturated fats in coconut oil, omega 3 fish oil fats, fat in grass fed beef, and monounsaturated fats, you actually improve your heart health. Did you know that there are more omega 3 fats in grass fed beef than in wild salmon? It’s true.

When you reduce saturated fats and increase carbs, you are promoting heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Contrast that to a diet high in saturated fat, which has shown a modest increase in serum cholesterol, but NO increase in heart attacks. Would you rather have a higher cholesterol number and lower heart attack risk or vice versa? This is exactly what the current research shows.

Most people would agree that human breast milk is the absolute best nutrition for newborn babies. Do you know that breast milk is 54% saturated fat? Why? Simply put, it is because it is so important in building new cells and proper repair of injured tissue. Did God put high fat in a baby’s diet by mistake? I think not!
What is a person to do? As for me and my house… we will be eating fats. Good old bacon, butter, and grass fed burgers (without the buns preferably). Since it is inflammation that causes the ill health effects, here are some diet tips from Dr. Mercola to lower your inflammation risk:
  1. Get plenty of high quality, animal based omega 3 fats in your diet.
  2. Reduce grains and sugars in your daily diet to the lowest levels possible.
  3. Eat more foods in the raw state.
  4. Eat more healthy fats like olive oil, sunflower oil, coconut oil, organic raw dairy products, raw nuts and seeds, eggs, and organic grass fed beef.
  5. Get the right amount of exercise.
  6. Avoid smoking – it does cause systemic inflammation.
  7. Address emotional changes quickly. Don’t stay in a stressed state.
If you are serious about shedding excess pounds and maintaining a healthy weight, long term, and significantly lowering your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, then you must get serious about restricting your consumption of fructose, especially from high fructose corn syrup. It should be no more than 25g per day with a maximum of 15g from fresh fruit. Too much fructose daily, from any source, is not healthy. Yes, you can increase the amount of fat you eat and lose weight, it’s a proven fact.