Cholesterol and statins – the myth! |
by Dr. Tilak S. Fernando from London
Dr. Mass R. Usuf of Sri Lanka is the Senior Vice President of the National Association of Homoeopaths & Affiliates (NAHA) and is the Chief Acupuncturist - Holistic Diagnosis & Healing Centre - Pita Kotte, Sri Lanka. He is a Doctor of Philosophy (Thesis - Palm Diagnosis) and holds a Doctorate in Acupuncture. Besides, he is qualified in Acupressure, Naturopathy and Magnet Therapy. He also practices Palm Diagnosis. Dr. Usuf is a Member of the Foundation for Homoeopathy (Medicina Alternativa) and of the International Association of Colour (UK). He is a practicing naturopath embracing many therapeutic systems and offering a combined restorative approach to any ailment. Dr. Mass R. Usuf can be contacted at: email@example.com
‘The ubiquitous nature of the word cholesterol can be attributed to giant pharmaceutical companies engineering medical conspiracies and indoctrinating the medical fraternity and, which finally trickles down as fright to ignorant, gullible people’. ‘Cholesterol is an extremely vital component of every cell membrane. No cholesterol means no life! How can it then be evil? It is one of our greatest allies! We cannot survive without it. Lowering it naturally predisposes one to disease and early death’ In a series of medical interviews Dr. Tilak S. Fernando (PhD) discusses the topic Cholesterol in human body with Dr. Mass R. Usuf.
Q. Today the word ‘cholesterol’ has become very common as well as a frightening word with regard to one’s health. What is cholesterol?
A. The ubiquitous nature of the word cholesterol can be attributed to giant pharmaceutical companies engineering medical conspiracies and indoctrinating the medical fraternity and, which finally trickles down as fright to ignorant, gullible people.
It is a body friendly soft substance waxy in nature and found among the lipids (fats) in the bloodstream. All cells in the human body have this substance. Cholesterol plays a vital life supporting role in the human body – it is used to form cell membranes, to form certain hormones and is needed for various other physiological functions.
For nigh on two decades we have been led to believe that a high level of cholesterol in the blood - hypercholesterolemia - contributes to coronary heart disease leading to myocardial infarction (heart attack).
Cholesterol is an extremely vital component of every cell membrane. No Cholesterol means no life! How can it then be evil? It is one of our greatest allies! We cannot survive without it. Lowering it naturally predisposes one to disease and early death. Cholesterol is a precursor to all of the steroid hormones. Without cholesterol estrogen, testosterone, cortisone, and many other vital hormones cannot be made.
Cholesterol and other lipids cannot dissolve in the blood and have to be transported to and from the cells by special carriers called lipoproteins. There are many varieties, but the ones the medical fraternity wants us to be watchful about is the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) – wrongly labeled as ‘bad’ cholesterol and ‘good’ cholesterol respectively!!
Q. Yes, the abbreviations LDL and HDL are indeed popular words among the common man today. What are they actually and how do they affect one’s health?
A. It is said (wrongly) that an excess of LDL in circulation contributes to a gradual build up of deposits in the walls of arteries of the heart (and brain). Along with other substances and with time the deposits are said to form plaque (thick, hard deposit) that clogs the arteries (occlusion of coronary arteries). It is called atherosclerosis.
One fine day a clot (thrombus) that forms near the plaque that has narrowed a coronary artery by partially obstructing it can block blood flow to part of the heart and precipitate a heart attack – every organ needs oxygenated blood to function properly. If it happens in the brain we call it a stroke. Thus, it came to be labelled as the ‘bad’ cholesterol.
As to HDL, the current thought among researchers is that HDL carries cholesterol away from the arteries and to the liver to be safely metabolised. Some believe that HDL removes excess cholesterol from plaques, acting as scavengers and, thereby retarding their growth and checking coronary occlusion. And so it earned the sobriquet ‘good’ cholesterol!!
Q. There is another thing called Triglycerides – what are they?
A. It is a medical terminology for fat. Hypertriglyceridaemia is a condition where a person has a lot of fat in the bloodstream. What it tells you is that you are making too much fat and your ability to burn it is retarded.
Q. What are the sources of cholesterol?
A. The liver is said to produce 80% of the cholesterol (circa 1000 mg a day) with 20% coming in an extraneous form by way of food. Foods containing saturated fats from animal sources like red meat, poultry, fish, seafood and dairy products contain it in varying quantities (eggs contain cholesterol). Fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds are cholesterol free.
Basically, the body manufactures the cholesterol it requires. The nature within man does not operate in a haphazard manner. Every bit of cellular activity stems from exact physiological requirements, is intelligent in manner and not wasteful in character – all just to keep the body ticking fine!
So - if a person’s constitution requires 2000 mg of cholesterol everyday so be it! That’s what his body requires. And another would tick fine with only 750 mg since that’s what his body requires! So, how can we dictate to the nature within us by way of impersonal computerised printouts that place our health risks within man made pre-determined parameters ?
The American Heart Association recommends that dietary cholesterol intake be less than 300 mg daily (those with heart disease to limit it to less than 200 mg). An egg yolk for example, has about 250-300 mg of cholesterol.
Saturated fatty acids (animal sources) and transfats found in vegetable oils and margarines are said to contribute to elevation of cholesterol levels.
If we eat sensibly and eat close to nature sans refined and processed food, less of grains and eliminating sugar, the cholesterol in us is not going to trouble us – high or low it does not matter!!
Q What are the drugs commonly prescribed to control Cholesterol?
A. They are called statins. In use for around 20 years they are fast becoming as common as aspirin!! They reduce total and LDL cholesterol levels and slightly increase the HDL. Statins slow down production of cholesterol and enhances the ability of the liver to remove the LDL cholesterol already in circulation.
Some of the statins currently marketed globally include:
- Lipitor (atorvastatin) - Pfizer - Zocor (simvastatin) - Merck - Pravachol (pravastatin) - Bristol-Myers Squibb - Lescol (fluvastatin) - Novartis - Mevacor (lovastatin) - Merck - Crestor (rosuvastatin) - AstraZeneca
These are not drugs a human being should take.
Q. But what have you got to say to those faithful adherents of statins (patients and physicians) who believe statins IS the answer?
A. There are only a handful of people with genetic issues where cholesterol levels are typically 350 or higher. The majority of the people, well over 99 percent can ‘normalise’ cholesterol levels (if they want to) by little intake of grains and eliminating sugar altogether. Statins do lower cholesterol levels quite effectively but they do not address the cause of the problem.
The enzyme “HMG Coenzyme A reductase” is the enzyme that prods the liver to make cholesterol - when it is stimulated by high insulin levels. Statins simply shut down the enzyme that makes the cholesterol. But one can choose not to excite the liver into producing more cholesterol by simply eliminating sugar and most grains from the diet.
This way one saves money, does not have to expose himself or herself to dangerous life threatening side effects and even leave an all important liver enzyme alone instead of messing with it. Messing with it is messing with the nature within us and that is dangerous as it can rebound in ways totally unexpected!! The enzyme is there for a sound reason – a product of many million years of human evolution.
Moreover, statins not only block “HMG coenzyme A reductase” but they also block Coenzyme Q 10 (CoQ10), which is an extremely vital enzyme the human body needs for energy and cardiovascular health.
CoQ10 mends damaged hearts, protects the heart against cardiovascular events, provides protection to heart valves and enhances overall cardiovascular function. CoQ10 also has been used against heart and lung cancer and plays an important role in cognitive function.
All patients on statins must be placed under CoQ10 therapy. I am yet to see such a prescription in Sri Lanka!!
The reduction of CoQ10 levels might be associated with myopathy, a rare adverse effect associated with statin drugs. This metabolic myopathy is related to ubiquinone (CoQ10) deficiency in muscle cell mitochondria, disturbing normal cellular respiration and causing adverse effects such as rhabdomyolysis, exercise intolerance, and recurrent myoglobinuria. (DiMuro S., Exercise intolerance and the mitochondrial respiratory chain. Ital J Neurol Sci. Dec. 1999;20(6):387-393).
Cerivastatin (Baycol-Bayer) was withdrawn from the market by the manufacturer in August 2001 after 31 deaths were reported. Subsequent to the FDA receiving numerous reports of severe myopathy (muscle weakness), rhabdomyolysis (muscle deterioration resulting in toxins released in the blood that can lead to renal failure), proteinuria (protein in the urine), nephropathy (a reduced ability of the kidneys to filter toxins from the blood) and kidney failure the drug was withdrawn.
Moreover, physicians in USA recommended taking even Crestor (AstraZenica's) off the market after cases of rhabdomyolysis were reported in trials of people taking 80 milligram doses.
The FDA has also turned down requests for over the counter prescriptions for Mevachor and Pravachol stating there was insufficient documentation that the drugs were safe to take without a doctor's supervision.
In a report published in the online issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, (May 24, 2005), researchers said the cholesterol-lowering drug rosuvastatin (Crestor) was more likely to be associated with muscle damage (myopathy)
And all the while – millions around the world keep popping it in glee intent in reducing their cholesterol levels, which has nothing to do with heart disease – but which in fact can bring it about!!
Statins are potentially dangerous for health. They are linked to mild, serious and life threatening known side effects such as:
- Muscle and body weakness - Myalgia (muscle pain/ache) - Risk of acquiring cancer - Immuno-suppression - which robs the vitality of the immune system - Rhabdomyolysis (degenerative muscle tissue condition) - Increase in liver enzymes indicating compromised liver function - worsening the situation of patients with congestive heart failure - Impaired memory
Statins are a USD 15 billion dollar business in the United States alone. Drug companies are funding multi-million dollar research programmes aimed at showing that this wonder drug will also be helpful in other conditions such as Alzheimer's, glaucoma, macular degeneration, breast, colon and prostate cancers. The conspiracy goes on unabated as long as there are ‘faithful adherents’!!
Moreover, research has amply indicated that despite controlled cholesterol levels (through statins or otherwise), an increase of calcium in the coronary arteries could contribute to higher risks of precipitating a myocardial infarct. People with excess calcium of the coronary artery cannot benefit from taking statins and are in a higher risk category for developing cardiovascular related conditions.
Q. Any more frightening side effects??
A. Plenty more! To quote:
- Low cholesterol (below160 mg/dl) is associated with an increased risk for acquiring Parkinson's disease (MSNBC September 29, 2005).
And plenty more …………. of the many unknown, the less manifest and yet to be discovered side effects taking toll of the body ……… well, they will come to light as the years roll by.
Q. Isn’t it much safer then to manage cholesterol by natural means rather than having to depend on drugs?
A. Of course it would be much safer and there are natural means ………… that is only if management is warranted in the rare cases. Let’s take diet. Eating more food low in saturated fat and cholesterol and eating more of vegetables and fruits (organic) is one way. Maintaining a healthy weight and some vigorous activity quite often are others.
Recently researchers have confirmed that a diet rich in fibre and vegetables works well to control cholesterol levels.
One research involved a diet consisting of almonds, cereal fibre and plant sterols. The research team tested the diet on more than 30 overweight men and women, comparing it with a low-fat diet and with a normal diet plus a generic statin drug (lovastatin).
With a break in between each treatment cycle volunteers followed each diet for one month. It was concluded that the low-fat diet lowered LDL by 8.5 percent, while statins lowered LDL by 33 percent and the diet regimen lowered LDL by nearly 30 percent (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition February 2005;81(2):380-387). So why risk taking statins when an apposite diet can do the trick??
It has been found that high insulin levels induce higher production of cholesterol by the liver. A food regimen comprising very much less grains and no sugar would reduce insulin levels and, hereby result in less cholesterol in circulation.
Moreover, all of these natural extracts and supplements reduce cholesterol very effectively: pomegranate extract, CoQ10, niacin (under medical supervision), policosanol (sugar cane extract), green tea extract, red yeast rice.
With so many natural means who wants dangerous statins – maybe only those indoctrinated by an indoctrinated medical fraternity!!
People take statins to reduce the risk of heart disease. Taking fish oil and cod liver oil rich in omega 3 fatty acids also reduces the risk of heart disease – immaterial of levels of cholesterol.
Q. It appears as if either the specialists’ and GPs’ knowledge on this matter is limited or they just do not want to believe other than what they are medically conditioned to believe by pharmaceutical companies?
A. The average doctor knows little about nutrition, vitamins and alternative therapies? Most physicians are too busy to keep in touch with such things. Moreover, like I said before giant pharmaceutical companies engineer medical conspiracies and indoctrinate the medical fraternity into believing that what is dished out by them is right.
Q. Are you implying that elevated cholesterol is not responsible for heart attacks?
A. This is what Dr. Blaylock says: ‘the fact that 50 percent of all strokes and heart attacks have absolutely nothing to do with elevated cholesterol levels has been kept from the public eye and from physicians’ medical education” (Blaylock Wellness Report, published by NewsMax.com)
Dr. Blaylock explodes the myths that dietary cholesterol is responsible for coronary artery disease and that only statins can preclude heart attacks and strokes by lowering cholesterol levels in the blood.
Q. If cholesterol – dietary or otherwise - is not causing the occlusion of coronary arteries leading to heart attacks then what does?
A. Like I said before, the greater part of cholesterol is manufactured by your own liver. Your Liver knows best how much of cholesterol you need. No healthy organ in the human body works haphazardly. So trust your liver and the levels of cholesterol it produces!
The human body is designed by nature to NEVER work against itself ………. but to sustain and protect it. Tinkering with nature is one reason why we now have so many auto-immune diseases where our body is attacked by the very armour designed to protect it.
Dietary cholesterol (cholesterol acquired by eating) does not play any significant role in determining cholesterol levels. This is where proponents for cholesterol now say it is safe to eat in moderation the once forbidden egg yolk or beef (grass fed).
Insulin and leptin (hormone produced by fat) resistance have been strongly linked to cardiovascular disease than to our ‘hero’ cholesterol. Insulin and leptin resistance precipitate "small dense" LDL particles – the very guys who give rise to coronary occlusion.
LDL particles come in many sizes. Large LDL particles are not a problem. Only the “small dense” LDL particles cause problems.
So here is a paradoxical situation where statins bring about a dramatic reduction in LDL - but as long as there pervades a greater number of “small dense” LDL particles (as opposed to large LDL particles) coronary artery damage can take place. If at all one wants to call one bad and the other good, you might say that there is "good LDL" and "bad LDL".
Q. And how does that happen?
A. “Small dense” LDL particles can creep in between the cells lining the inside of an artery (endothelium) where they take root, oxidise (turn rancid) and set off an inflammation of the arteries. Chemicals are released to initiate the process of inflammation.
When inflammation takes place the body goes into repair mode to maintain arterial integrity. Arteries begin to constrict, blood assumes a propensity to clot, white blood cells zoom in to the area to gobble up damaged debris and cells adjacent to the damaged ones multiply.
The result of all these activities is scar formation. When it happens inside an artery is called plaque …………. more inflammations more plaque formation, more plaque formation more narrow the artery, more narrow the artery the greater chance of a clot (thrombus) cutting off blood supply to a part of the heart – heart attack!
Now to replace damaged, old and worn-out cells with new ones the liver recycles (via HDL) or manufactures cholesterol since no cell can be made without it. Cholesterol is, therefore, turned out and released in your bloodstream to help repair damaged tissue …….. in fact to keep you alive……………and you are trying your level best to lower it!!
So - cholesterol does NOT per se cause coronary artery occlusion (blockage). It is the oxidised version that does it – the “small dense bad LDL” guy. And this guy will be there despite low levels of cholesterol achieved through statin intake – brought about by insulin and leptin resistance.
Q. What have you got to say in general?
A. Never has it been conclusively proved by consistent research that lowering cholesterol prevents heart attacks. In truth, several studies have demonstrated that lowering cholesterol to levels currently recommended is correlated with an increased risk of dying, especially of cancer.
Statins actually can increase heart disease by blocking the important heart friendly CoQ10 enzyme.
Low cholesterol levels can worsen patients with congestive heart failure, a life-threatening condition where the heart becomes too debilitated to effectively pump blood.
A report showing total cholesterol is meaningless. Knowing your LDL and HDL levels cannot tell you much. At best it takes the form of a scare report to make you rush to the nearest drugstore!!
Let’s assume there is a weak correlation of elevated cholesterol with heart attacks (some studies have shown this). This does not mean that cholesterol caused the heart attack. Like Dr. Ron Rosedale puts it – “gray hair is correlated with getting older; however one could hardly say that the gray hair caused one to get old. Using hair dye to reduce the gray hair would not really make you any younger. Neither it appears would just lowering your cholesterol?
As Dr Rosedale further says: “Removing cholesterol will do nothing to improve the underlying problems, the real roots of chronic disease, which will always have to do with improper communication, and the generals of metabolic communication are insulin and leptin. They are really what must be treated to reverse heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, and to some extent aging itself”.
The secret to keeping insulin and leptin resistance at bay is to go organic where vegetables and fruits are concerned, staying away from refined/processed food (tinned, packeted, canned, bottled) having little grains and eliminating sugars, watching your weight, some vigorous exercises regularly and consuming heart friendly natural extracts/supplements.
No build up of insulin/leptin resistance means no damage by “small dense bad LDL” and no subsequent inflammation and repair and no plaque build up and no coronary artery occlusion!!
Q. Why does the drug industry ressurize doctors and institutions to recommended lower blood cholesterol levels to well below current limits?
A. Total cholesterol was supposed to be maintained at 200 mg/dL or below. LDL was supposed to be maintained within 160 mg/dL (different labs have different values of +or-10 or so). As to HDL, a level of 40 mg/dL in men and 50 mg/dL in women was said to be desirable. Cholesterol is an extremely vital component of every cell membrane. No cholesterol means no life! How can it then be evil? It is one of our greatest allies! We cannot survive without it. Lowering it naturally predisposes one to disease and early death