May 18, 2017

Cholesterol and Statins

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

It’s been a while since I’ve hit the cholesterol and statin drug topic. There are new research articles coming out all the time. Right now there is even disagreement in the medical community as to who benefits from statins and even if they are needed at all in some people.

For 40 years the medical community and the U.S. government have warned that eating cholesterol rich foods like eggs would raise our LDL and promote heart disease. Decades of research since then have failed to produce any correlation.

The guidelines are still misleading and wrong because the basic premise is faulty. Dietary fat is indeed associated with heart disease; BUT it is the processed vegetable oils and margarines which are loaded with trans-fats and omega 6 fatty acids that are the problem, not the animal fats and saturated fats which are beneficial to the heart.

Back in the mid-20th century, Ancel Keys was a prominent nutritional researcher with enormous influence. His views were widely adopted by professional and government communities. He is the one who promoted the low fat diet recommendations. Keys was largely funded by the sugar industry.

Interestingly, some of his own follow up research completely undermined his cholesterol and saturated fat hypothesis. He completely buried these findings and never published them!

The newly discovered research was a huge study with over 9,000 participants. Each was followed for, on average, 15 months. These people’s diets were strictly controlled and recorded. What they found was that when you replaced saturated fats with vegetable oils, it did lower cholesterol numbers by 14% after one year. The unpublished data reveals that for every 30 point cholesterol drop, there was a 22% increased chance of death! What? So the conventional belief that lowering cholesterol creates longevity of life is totally wrong. The opposite is true, lower cholesterol equals shorter longevity.

New cholesterol guidelines were issued in 2016 by the two leading groups in the U.S. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) suggests statins should not be used unless the patient has another risk factor such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or smoking, in addition to a 10% risk on the cardiovascular risk calculator. Under these guidelines some 17.1 million Americans are candidates for statins. But under the American Heart Association guidelines, almost 26.4 million people need them. That is quite a difference even for them.

The numbers we really need to look at are what are called “the number needed to treat.” This is how many people need to take a drug in order for it to help one person. Here are these numbers:

-          100 people need to take a statin as a primary preventive for 5 years in order for one person to avoid a heart attack, and none will actually live longer!

-          250 people need to take a statin for up to six years in order to prevent a single death from any cause!

By looking at relative risk, statins are made to look helpful. But if you look at absolute risk statins benefit a mere 1 percent of the population! So of 100 people using statin drugs, ONE person will have ONE less heart attack…and no one is kept from dying from a heart attack. Absurd, isn’t it?
Since statins virtually do nothing to reduce death and they have over 200 side effects and clinical challenges, why take them, ever?

Eat more good saturated fats like animal fats, olive oils, coconut oils, and avocados. These good fats are essential for your good health, do not avoid them…eat more of them for a fuller, healthier life.