Cholesterol Myths to Wise Up About
Did hearing these grave words make your hands shake and your face go pale?
Did you immediately call or text your spouse after you left the doctor’s office? Did you drive just a little too fast as you drove to the first pharmacy drive-thru to get your statin prescription filled?
It’s time to end the madness about high cholesterol, because you see, cholesterol isn’t going to kill you and contrary to conventional belief, it’s not going to make you drop dead of a heart attack if you don’t religiously take statin drugs for the rest of your life.
It’s time to start listening to those doctors who are telling us the truth: evaluating heart disease risk is far more complex than a snap evaluation of a single number like total cholesterol.
Furthermore, it’s time to carefully weigh the ample scientific evidence that cholesterol is actually beneficial, not detrimental, to our health! Consider the research of Dr. Harlan Krumholz of the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at Yale University, consistently ignored by the statin pushing crowd, who reported that old people with low cholesterol died twice as often from a heart attack as did old people with high cholesterol.
Besides the fact that “total cholesterol” is a meaningless number in and of itself, taking statin drugs carries huge health risks such as muscle wasting, significant cognitive impairment and cancer. That’s right, the c-word. In every single study to date conducted on rodents, statins caused cancer. One human trial showed that breast cancer rates of women taking statins were 1500% higher than than of controls (source). In addition, a study showed that women who take statins for 10 or more years increase their risk of breast cancer by nearly 2.5 times (source).
Let’s examine a few other cholesterol myths so the next time you’re sitting in a doctor’s office and the person in the white coat is pushing statins on you, you are armed with evidence supporting your position to just say no.
Natural cholesterol has many benefits in the diet!
Cholesterol Myths #1: People with high cholesterol are more likely to have a heart attack.
It is indeed true that men who are young or middle aged have a slightly greater risk for heart attack if their total cholesterol level is over 300. However, for elderly women and men, high cholesterol is associated with a longer life. In addition, cholesterol levels just below 300 carry no greater risk than very low cholesterol levels. The suggestion by conventional medicine to take statins if cholesterol is over 180 or 200 is completely arbitrary and harmful over the long term.
Cholesterol Myths #2: Cholesterol and saturated fat in foods like butter, egg yolks and liver clog arteries.
This myth has no basis in fact as arterial plaques contain very little cholesterol or saturated fat. 75% of arterial plaque is made up of unsaturated fat, of which 50% is polyunsaturated. Only the remaining 25% is saturated. Moreover, the greater the concentration of polyunsaturated fat in the plaque, the more likely it is to rupture, a primary cause of heart attacks. Chris Kresser L. Ac sums it up well:
the notion that saturated fat “clogs arteries” and causes heart attacks is totally false. It is actually polyunsaturated fat — the so-called “heart-healthy fat — which has those effects.
Cholesterol Myths #3: Eating saturated fat and foods like butter cause cholesterol levels to rise and make people more susceptible to heart attacks.
If this is true, why then have heart attack rates risen as people have avoided saturated fats like butter, meat fats and egg yolks? There is no evidence that saturated fat and cholesterol rich foods contribute to heart disease and doctors that continue to claim this are just plain wrong with at least two major studies confirming this (source).
Cholesterol Myths #4: Cholesterol-lowering drugs save lives.
Statins do not result in any improvement in outcome in recent trials involving thousands of test subjects. Why risk the devastating side effects of statins like cancer and mental decline when they won’t help anyway? (source)
Cholesterol Myths #5: Countries that have a high consumption of animal fats and cholesterol have higher rates of heart disease.
The elephant in the room with this myth are countries like France where butter, cream, and pate are eaten with abandon with no corresponding increase in heart disease (source). According to Dr. John Briffa, top honors graduate of the University College London School of Medicine:
You’ll sometimes hear about the ‘French paradox’, which describes the phenomenon of low heart disease rates in France ‘despite’ a diet rich in saturated fat. Well, it seems that this ‘paradox’ is not limited to France, but is alive and well in several other countries too including the UK, Germany, Austria, Finland, Belgium, Iceland, the Netherlands and Switzerland. In other words, it’s not a paradox at all. It’s only a paradox if one believes saturated fat causes heart disease. The thing is, there’s really no good evidence that it does.
So relax! The next time you’re sitting in the doctor’s office reviewing the results of your latest blood test and the words “high cholesterol” and “statin drugs” are spoken in the same breath, just smile politely and say “no thanks”.
Feel confident in your decision to opt out of the statin madness.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
Sarah Pope has been a Health and Nutrition Educator since 2002. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Weston A. Price Foundation.
Sarah was awarded Activist of the Year at the International Wise Traditions Conference in 2010.
Sarah earned a Bachelor of Arts (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) in Economics from Furman University and a Master’s degree in Government (Financial Management) from the University of Pennsylvania.
Mother to three healthy children, blogger, and best-selling author, she writes about the practical application of Traditional Diet and evidence-based wellness within the modern household. Her work has been featured by USA Today, The New York Times, National Review, ABC, NBC, and many others.