I do not believe the current medical orthodoxy concerning cholesterol. There has been so much research written debunking the party-line (cholesterol is bad and must be lowered at all costs) that I am amazed that it still has so many supporters.
Mark Sisson, Bill Sardi, Dr Joseph Mercola, Dr David Brownstein, Dr Mark Sircus, Johnny Bowden and Dr Stephen Sinatra have all argued against the conventional wisdom. Those are just some of the bigger names out there. A brief duckduckgo.com search finds so many more.
How is something that is needed in every cell, is present in every cell bad for me? I agree with the writers above and believe that it isn’t. As Sisson argues:
As a naturally self-regulating system, the body isn’t going to produce something that is intrinsically pathological. Maybe that could happen in really rare genetic mutations, but everyone produces, utilizes, and relies upon cholesterol. It simply doesn’t make sense that cholesterol is evil.
Several authors above draw links between high cholesterol numbers, oxidative stress and systemic inflammation. But it is not the cholesterol that is causing the inflammation and oxidative stress. Oxidation and inflammation lead to high cholesterol numbers. Dr Mercola writes “If you have increased levels of cholesterol, it is at least in part because of increased inflammation in your body. The cholesterol is there to do a job: help your body to heal and repair.” What kind of things can lead to inflammation for a Type-2 diabetic like me? High blood glucose levels, lack of exercise, poor diet, booze, sugars, carbs, food-based products, etc. According to Dr Sircus:
What are the biggest culprits of chronic inflammation? Quite simply, they are the overload of simple, highly processed carbohydrates (sugar, flour and all the products made from them) and the excess consumption of omega-6 vegetable oils like soybean, corn and sunflower that are found in many processed foods. Low magnesium though is the most basic culprit as is excessive irregular breathing, which reduces both CO2 and O2 levels in the body, both of which cause systemic inflammation.
Which leads to my cautionary tale. If I hadn’t already done my research on cholesterol, inflammation and oxidation years ago, I would be much more susceptible to the siren call of statins from my current diabetes nurse. Statins are medicines that lower cholesterol numbers (marginally) and as a result, so the argument goes, help prevent heart attacks and strokes. Now my cholesterol numbers are good for a normal civilian, but according to conventional wisdom are a bit high for a diabetic.
Here, one might say “Well, if they lower your cholesterol, why not just take them. It couldn’t hurt could it?” My counter to that is that the statins would not help my underlying inflammation even if there was any. It would be treating the symptoms, not the disease. More importantly, the benefits of statins in lowering cholesterol and therefore lowering the chance of heart attack and stroke appear, at best, debatable. At worst, they are non-existent.
And this isn’t the end of it. The more you look into statins the more dangerous they seem. These are the side effects of statins provided by the NHS in the United Kingdom:
Common side effects
Side effects can vary between different statins, but common side effects include:
feeling unusually tired or physically weak
digestive system problems, such as constipation, diarrhoea, indigestion or farting
low blood platelet count
Uncommon side effects
Uncommon side effects of statins include:
pins and needles
inflammation of the liver (hepatitis), which can cause flu-like symptoms
inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), which can cause stomach pain
skin problems, such as acne or an itchy red rash
sexual problems, such as loss of libido (reduced sex drive) or erectile dysfunction
Rare side effects
Rare side effects of statins include:
muscle weakness (myopathy)
loss of sensation or tingling in the nerve endings of the hands and feet (peripheral neuropathy)
tendon problems (tendons are tough cords of tissue that connect muscles to bones)
Statins can occasionally cause muscle inflammation (swelling) and damage. Speak to your doctor if you have muscle pain, tenderness or weakness that cannot be explained – for example, pain that is not caused by physical work.
Your doctor may carry out a blood test to measure a substance in your blood called creatine kinase (CK), which is released into the blood when your muscles are inflamed or damaged.
What the NHS site does not mention is that creatine kinase is a marker for severely damaged muscle tissue which can mean a host of serious medical problems including: myocardial infarction (heart attack), rhabdomyolysis (severe muscle breakdown), muscular dystrophy, autoimmune myositides, and acute kidney injury.
My current diabetes nurse and the one before that both asked if I wanted to take statins even though my cholesterol numbers were good; I politely declined. Do they know about the complications and the laundry list of side-effects? Very likely no. They are just well-meaning people who are doing what they’re told to do. If they see a cholesterol number above (enter arbitrary number), then they recommend statins. Maybe I’m wrong, but I am pretty sure I know a hell of a lot more about cholesterol and statins than they do. I am very glad I do my own research.