Debunking The Cholesterol Myth

It’s time to finally quit believing the cholesterol-heart disease theory. Although doctors and their patients embrace the idea that cholesterol needs correction and is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease, there’s no reason to believe it. Cholesterol actually contributes to balanced hormones and a healthy sex life.

Cholesterol Does Not Cause Atherosclerosis

Unfortunately, the cholesterol-heart disease hypothesis is still the major dogma of modern medicine today. This is the theory that abnormally high cholesterol levels cause atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and heart disease. The theory has been touted simply for large financial gains and believed by the masses. It originated in the late 1940s and early 1950s due to political pressure in the medical industry to find a cause for coronary artery disease (CAD), which was becoming the No. 1 killer of Americans. The mild correlation made between high cholesterol and CAD in middle-aged men was enough to form the basis of a public campaign.

The problem is that no one ever proved causation, but only a correlation. Scientifically speaking, you could have argued that CAD causes high cholesterol. But that would have been equally wrong.

Neglected Report

You probably never heard about the 1964 report by the famous heart surgeon Dr. Michael DeBakey, in Houston. He and his colleagues studied 1,700 surgical patients only to find no correlation between their blood cholesterol levels and the extent of CAD. This was reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association. [1] This is consistent with the fact that about 50 percent of people hospitalized for heart attacks or undergoing CABG (coronary artery by-bass graft) surgery have normal cholesterol levels.

Furthermore, in 1992, Dr. William P. Castelli, former director of the Framingham Study, reported a similar discovery: “…in Framingham, Mass., the more saturated fat one ate, the more cholesterol one ate, the more calories one ate, the lower the person’s serum cholesterol…We found that the people who ate the most cholesterol, ate the most saturated fat, ate the most calories, weighed the least, and were the most physically active.” [2] This is the exact opposite of what people are being told. This does not mean that high consumption of animal meat is going to lower your heart disease risk, because animal meat in high amounts triggers inflammatory processes, while consuming fresh fruits and vegetables and raw foods lowers inflammation.

Powerful Myth

Yet the commercial effect of the cholesterol myth grew tremendously. Low-cholesterol foods, testing for blood cholesterol and the multibillion-dollar cholesterol-lowering drug industry became very profitable even without scientific proof of causation. Unfortunately, doctors still prescribe statin drugs to lower cholesterol when there are much better and safer ways to lower CAD risk.

Recently, I attended a seminar by Mark Houston, M.D., M.S., F.A.C.P., F.A.H.A. He teaches the courses on the functional and metabolic management of hypertension, CAD and dyslipidemia for the fellowship training of the American Academy of Anti-aging Medicine (AAAAM). The latest scientific literature clearly shows that knowing your HDL and LDL cholesterol blood levels provides no real information about cardiovascular risk. Indeed, cholesterol is involved in heart health; but the chronic inflammation, immune dysfunction and oxidative stress of the vascular system are the real culprits. Chronic infections and the consumption of inflammatory foods (such as refined sugars and processed grains) are the two main inflammatory triggers for atherosclerosis.

Only the newer, expanded lipid profile and highly sensitive C-reactive protein levels can really give you a measure of cardiovascular disease risk. The expanded profile measures the LDL particle size and number, the HDL particle size and number, and other lipoprotein subclasses — all measures of inflammation.

Therefore, LDL cholesterol is bad only if it is modified to an oxidized form. That begs the question: How do cholesterol-lowering (statin) drugs lower heart disease risk? Well, it turns out that their effectiveness is due to their anti-inflammatory effects and not cholesterol-lowering effects. Here are some classic scientific studies that help demonstrate this.

Significant Reductions

In The Heart Protection Study [3] reported in the Lancet in 2011, researchers followed 20,536 patients treated with the statin drug simvastatin. They found a significant reduction in heart attacks independent of the baseline blood level of C-reactive protein and in those who already had a low LDL cholesterol level.

A whole set of studies from peer-reviewed journals [4] [5] [6] show that consuming one to seven eggs per week (lots of cholesterol) does not increase the risk of dying from CVD or stroke in men or women. Better yet, there was a trend for men with higher egg consumption to have even a lower rate of stroke. In people with pre-existing obesity, diabetes or insulin resistance, there were a higher number of CAD deaths than normal in comparison with the total population.

A 2009 scientific article [7] published in Current Atherosclerosis Reports from the Framingham Heart Study, the Lipid Research Clinics Study and Male Health Professionals Study all showed that dietary cholesterol has little to no effect on the risk for CAD. However, eating foods with lots of trans-fatty acids (hydrogenated oils) significantly increases the risk for CAD; substitution of saturated fat with refined carbohydrates increases CAD; and very low saturated fat actually increases the risk for hemorrhagic stroke.

Negligible Impact

Earlier in 2001, the British Medical Journal reported a systemic review [8] of 27 randomized clinical controlled trials with a total of 3,902 people who reduced or modified their dietary fat intake for longer than two years, looking at the effect this had on deaths from CAD. The effect was almost negligible: mortality reduced a mere 2 percent!

Now, consider the fact that cholesterol conveys health benefits. In the new specialty of anti-aging and hormone-balancing medicine, we know that low cholesterol in the diet is largely to blame for insufficient production of steroid hormones. See the accompanying metabolic pathway chart. The hormones in red are the ones we measure and replace with supplementation to reverse a large number of illness signs and symptoms.

Source: Michael Cutler’s notes from Fellowship training by AAAAM

You must have sufficient cholesterol in your diet to make sufficient amounts of these critically important hormones: progesterone, aldosterone, cortisol, DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), testosterone and the estrogens. As you can see, they all are manufactured from cholesterol, which you must get from your diet. I‘ll further discuss these hormones and hormone balancing in my next article.

To your best health,
Michael Cutler, M.D.
Easy Health Options

Dr. Michael Cutler

By Dr. Michael Cutler

Dr. Michael Cutler is a graduate of Tulane University School of Medicine and is a board-certified family physician with more than 20 years of experience. He serves as a medical liaison to alternative and traditional practicing physicians. His practice focuses on an integrative solution to health problems. Dr. Cutler is a sought-after speaker and lecturer on experiencing optimum health through natural medicines and founder of the original Easy Health Options™ newsletter — an advisory on natural healing therapies and nutrients. His current practice is San Diego Integrative Medicine, near San Diego, California.