Do you have high cholesterol?
Are you taking statins to lower your cholesterol?
If so, you should know that new studies show that:
- A cholesterol-lowering drug has no effect on reducing risks of cardiovascular diseases.
- Cholesterol does not increase risks of cardiovascular diseases any way.
High cholesterol is commonly caused by an unhealthy diet and of eating high levels of saturated fat in particular, as well as smoking. It is carried in the blood attached to proteins called lipoproteins and has been traditionally linked to cardiovascular diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke, peripheral arterial disease and aortic disease.
Statins are a class of lipid-lowering medications that inhibit the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase which plays a central role in the production of cholesterol. Prescribed by doctors to lower cholesterol, statins are one of the most commonly prescribed medications in the U.S., taken by an estimated 1 in 4 middle-aged adults. New cholesterol guidelines, introduced last November, could push that number to as many as 1 in 2 adults over age 40, according to a recent analysis in the New England Journal of Medicine.
But Ashley Welch reports for CBS News, April 4, 2016, that a large clinical trial found that although the drug evacetrapib does lower the “bad” cholesterol LDL and increases levels of “good” cholesterol HDL, the drug is not effective in helping protect patients from major cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke.
Evacetrapib is a class of drugs known as cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) inhibitors that disrupt the natural process by which HDL cholesterol is converted into LDL cholesterol in the body.
The research, presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 65th Annual Scientific Session, involved more than 12,000 patients from approximately 540 global health centers at high risk for serious cardiovascular health problems. The participants were randomly selected to receive either 130 milligrams of evacetrapib or a placebo pill daily for at least 18 months. The patients also received standard medical therapy — the majority of which included statins or other cholesterol-lowering drugs — throughout the trial.
The research showed that compared to the other patients taking the placebo, patients taking evacetrapib on average lowered their “bad” cholesterol by 37% and increased their “good” cholesterol by 130%. However, the drug’s favorable effects on cholesterol did not translate into a reduced risk of heart attack, stroke, coronary artery bypass surgery, hospitalization for chest pain, or amount of time until cardiovascular death.
Dr. Stephen Nicholls, the study’s lead author and a professor at Australia’s University of Adelaide and cardiologist at Royal Adelaide Hospital, said in a statement: “Here we’ve got an agent that more than doubles the levels of good cholesterol and lowers bad cholesterol and yet has no effect on clinical events. We were disappointed and surprised by the results” that a drug that seems to do all the right things in terms of blood cholesterol levels doesn’t then translate into reducing clinical events.
That leads us to this next report by Henry Bodkin for The Telegraph, June 13, 2016.
A review of research involving nearly 70,000 people found there was no link between “bad” cholesterol and the premature deaths of those over 60 years old from cardiovascular disease. In other words, cholesterol does not cause heart disease in the elderly and trying to reduce it with drugs like statins is a waste of time.
Published in the BMJ Open journal, the new study found that 92% of people with a high cholesterol level actually lived longer and had less heart disease!
Co-author of the study Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, an intermediate care GP, acknowledged the findings would cause controversy but defended them as “robust” and “thoroughly reviewed”. He said, “What we found in our detailed systematic review was that older people with high LDL (low-density lipoprotein) levels, the so-called ‘bad’ cholesterol, lived longer and had less heart disease.”
He and his co-authors have called for a re-evaluation of the guidelines for the prevention of cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis, a hardening and narrowing of the arteries, because “the benefits from statin treatment have been exaggerated”.
Lead author Dr. Uffe Ravnskov, a former associate professor of renal medicine at Lund University in Sweden, went so far as to say there is “no reason” to lower high-LDL-cholesterol.
Dr. Ravnskov’s co-author, vascular and endovascular surgery expert Professor Sherif Sultan from the University of Ireland, said cholesterol is one of the “most vital” molecules in the body and prevents infection, cancer, muscle pain and other conditions in elderly people. “Lowering cholesterol with medications for primary cardiovascular prevention in those aged over 60 is a total waste of time and resources, whereas altering your lifestyle is the single most important way to achieve a good quality of life,” he said.
- Professor Colin Baigent, an epidemiologist at Oxford University, said the new study had “serious weaknesses and, as a consequence, has reached completely the wrong conclusion”.
- Another skeptic, consultant cardiologist Dr. Tim Chico, said he would be more convinced by randomised study where some patients have their cholesterol lowered using a drug, such as a stain, while others receive a placebo. He said: “There have been several studies that tested whether higher cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol in elderly patients and observing whether this reduces their risk of heart disease. These have shown that lowering cholesterol using a drug does reduce the risk of heart disease in the elderly, and I find this more compelling than the data in the current study.”
- The British Heart Foundation also questioned the new research, pointing out that the link between high LDL cholesterol levels and death in the elderly is harder to detect because, as people get older, more factors determine overall health. A spokesman said, “There is nothing in the current paper to support the author’s suggestions that the studies they reviewed cast doubt on the idea that LDL Cholesterol is a major cause of heart disease or that guidelines on LDL reduction in the elderly need re-valuating.”
What the skeptics don’t say is that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) itself is warning about the dangers of taking statins, that:
- Cognitive (brain-related) impairment, such as memory loss, forgetfulness and confusion, has been reported by some statin users.
- People being treated with statins may have an increased risk of raised blood sugar levels and the development of Type 2 diabetes.
- Some medications interact with lovastatin (brand names include Mevacor) and can increase the risk of muscle damage.
Here’s Dr. Mercola‘s low down on cholesterol and statins:
Like saturated fat, cholesterol has also been wrongly demonized despite the fact that 60 years’ worth of research has utterly failed to demonstrate any correlation between high cholesterol and heart disease.
Despite this, many, even most health professionals still cling to the idea that cholesterol raises your risk for heart disease, and that strategies that lower cholesterol also lower your heart disease risk. […]
Cholesterol is actually one of the most important molecules in your body; indispensable for the building of cells and for producing stress and sex hormones, as well as vitamin D.
It’s also important for brain health, and helps with the formation of your memories. Low levels of HDL cholesterol have been linked to memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease, and may also increase your risk of depression, stroke, violent behavior, and suicide. […]
Since the cholesterol hypothesis is false, this also means that the recommended therapies — low-fat, low-cholesterol diet, and cholesterol lowering medications — are doing more harm than good. Statin treatment, for example, is largely harmful, costly, and has transformed millions of people into patients whose health is being adversely impacted by the drug.