Why You Should Be Skeptical of Cholesterol Tests: Part 2

In October of this year, cardiologist Steven Sinatra, M.D., and I published the new and revised edition of our book, The Great Cholesterol Myth. I hope you’ll read it—it contains information that could change your life, prevent diabetes, and strengthen your immune system.

I’m not kidding.

One of the things we do in the book is to demystify cholesterol, a molecule without which you could not live.

Life can’t go on without cholesterol, a basic raw material made by your liver, brain, and almost every cell in your body. Enzymes convert it into vitamin D, steroid hormones (such as our sex hormones—estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone—and stress hormones), and bile salts for digesting and absorbing fats. It makes up a major part of the membranes surrounding cells and the structures within them.

The brain is particularly rich in cholesterol and accounts for about a quarter of all the cholesterol we have in our bodies. The fatty myelin sheath that coats every nerve cell and fiber is about one-fifth cholesterol. Neuronal communication depends on cholesterol. It is not surprising that a connection has been found between naturally occurring cholesterol and mental function. Lower levels are linked to poorer cognitive performance.

As my co-author, Dr. Sinatra, says in the book:

I’ve come to believe that cholesterol is a minor player in the development of heart disease and that whatever good statin drugs accomplish has very little to do with their cholesterol-lowering ability. 

Yes, folks. For  the better part of 40 years we’ve been focused on the wrong molecule in an attempt to prevent cardiovascular and cardiometabolic diseases.

Still skeptical? Take a look at the Nurses’ Health Study, one of the longest-running studies of diet and disease ever undertaken. Conducted by Harvard University, the study has followed more than 120,000 females since the mid-1970s to determine risk factors for cancer and heart disease. In an exhaustive analysis of 84,129 of these women, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, five factors were identified that significantly lowered the risk for heart disease. In fact, wrote the authors, “Eighty-two percent of coronary events in the study  .  .  .  could be attributed to lack of adherence to (these five factors).

Ready for the five factors?

  1. Don’t smoke.
  2. Drink alcohol in moderation.
  3. Engage in moderate-to-vigorous exercise for at least half an hour a day on average.
  4. Maintain a healthy weight (BMI under 25).
  5. Eat a wholesome, low-glycemic (low-sugar) diet with plenty of omega-3 fats and fiber.

Wait, didn’t they miss something? Where’s the part about lowering cholesterol?

It’s not there. 

Lowering cholesterol didn’t even make the list of the five most important things you can do to prevent heart attacks.

Of course, popping a pill is a lot easier than changing your lifestyle, but there it is. The inconvenient fact that lowering cholesterol has almost no effect on extending life is simply ignored by the special interests that profit enormously from keeping you in the dark.

As the writer Upton Sinclair said, “It is very difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

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