As some of you may know, cardiologist Stephen Sinatra and I co-authored a book which was just released this week, entitled “The Great Cholesterol Myth�?.
So, you might well ask, what is the great cholesterol myth? And why should I even care?
Let’s take the second question first. You should care for two reasons. One, the Great Cholesterol Myth has been the foundation of the boneheaded dietary advice you and I have been saddled with for the past thirty years, “official�? dietary advice that has directly contributed to the greatest epidemic of obesity, diabetes and heart disease in history.
And two, belief in the Great Cholesterol Myth has caused us to take our eye off the ball when it comes to preventing heart disease. Belief in the Great Cholesterol Myth has caused us to neglect the real causes of heart disease while obsessively focused on an innocuous molecule that’s essential for life and has only a minor role in heart disease.
The Great Cholesterol Myth is actually a series of related myths. Here are eight of my favorites.
MYTH: High cholesterol is the cause of heart disease.
FACT: Cholesterol is a fairly insignificant player in heart disease.
MYTH: High cholesterol is a good predictor of heart attacks.
FACT: High cholesterol is a lousy predictor of heart attacks. Half the people admitted to hospitals with heart disease have normal cholesterol, and plenty of people with elevated cholesterol have perfectly healthy hearts.
MYTH: Lowering cholesterol with statin drugs will prolong your life.
FACT: There is no data showing statins have any impact on longevity.
MYTH: Statin drugs are perfectly safe.
FACT: Statin drugs have significant side effects, including loss of memory and libido, muscle pain and fatigue, and approximately 65% of doctors don’t report those side effects. (1)
MYTH: Statin drugs are appropriate for men, women, children and the elderly.
FACT: The only group in which statins have been shown to have even a modest effect is in middle-aged men who’ve already had a heart attack. If you’re not in that group, you’ve got no business on a statin drug. (2)
MYTH: Saturated fat is dangerous.
FACT: Saturated fat is mostly neutral and may even have some health benefits. Recent peer-reviewed studies have shown no association of saturated fat with heart disease. (3)
MYTH: The higher your cholesterol, the shorter your lifespan.
FACT: In the Framingham Study, the people who actually lived the longest had the highest cholesterol. (4)
MYTH: A high carbohydrate diet protects you from heart disease.
FACT: Diets that substitute carbohydrates for saturated fat actually increase the risk for heart disease. (5)
For much, much more, check out our new book, “The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Cholesterol Won’t Prevent Heart Disease and the Statin-Free Plan that Will“.