The Great Cholesterol Myth

April 22, 2013
Greek mythology is intriguing and fun. Health mythology is misleading and health-eroding. Try on an alternate lens with which to look at cholesterol, and see what you think. Based on simple science and biochemistry, the party line on cholesterol just doesn?t hold water.

A giant myth is floating in our midst. It is like a monstrous hot-air balloon that is so massive that it blots out everything around it. So massive that it?s all anyone can see, so that pretty soon, all we talk about is the hot air balloon. Turns out, we just need to pop the darn thing so that we can get back on track. I?m talking about the great cholesterol myth. You know the one, right? It is everywhere around us?in the media, in our healthcare system, on food labels. It?s hard to escape the well known ?facts? that dietary cholesterol is BAD, saturated fat is BAD, that both of these cause heart disease, that there are certain (very low) cholesterol levels that you should have in your blood, and that pretty much everyone over the age of three needs to be on a statin drug. And I am here to tell you that that is all BULL?er,?ONEY; right, baloney. It?s one of the ?great ones? in what I affectionately call ?Food & Health Mythology.? Except there are no cool gods and stories like in Greek Mythology, just myths that confuse the public and put people?s health at risk. Not nearly as cool or entertaining.

Now, this is a very big topic. I?ve given three-hour lectures on this topic alone, because it?s so important in creating Body Sass?. So, with brevity in mind, first I?m going to give you some myths contrasted with cold, hard facts. Then, I?ll provide some ways that you can continue to educate yourself on this important topic. And yes, it is, indeed, important, especially for those of us honoring our Body Sass?.

Myth #1: High blood cholesterol causes heart disease.

Fact: Blood cholesterol levels are actually a fairly insignificant piece of the heart disease picture. Like, tiny.

Myth #2: High blood cholesterol means that you are at high risk for a heart attack.

Fact: High blood cholesterol is actually NOT a good predictor of heart attack risk. In fact, over half of the people that end up in the hospital with a heart attack have ?normal? blood cholesterol. And, plenty of people that are permitted to waltz around the planet with high cholesterol levels don?t have heart attacks. By definition of the word ?predictor?, I think those stats pretty much shoot that myth out of the water.

Further, in The Framingham Study, and in studies conducted around the world, the people who live the longest tend to have ?high? cholesterol. I?m not kidding.

Myth #3: Dietary cholesterol (like egg yolks) is bad, bad, bad.

Fact: Cholesterol is a vitally important substance in the body. That?s why your liver will make whatever you don?t eat! Are you hearing that? Removing cholesterol from your diet simply means that your liver is going to have to work harder to make the cholesterol that is a foundational building block in your body?s health systems. Your liver is very, very busy being involved in over 500 metabolic processes in the body, so I think we should cut it a break.

Myth #4: Saturated fat is bad, bad, bad.

Fact: Saturated fat is neutral to good, definitely not bad. If you really want to talk ?bad??sugar = bad, trans fats = bad, too many omega-6 fats = bad, too few omega-3 fats = bad. I?m still not kidding. Study after study has shown that the whole dietary fat/cholesterol = heart attack (the ?Diet/Heart Hypothesis?) is?well?bogus. Wrong.

Myth #5: Statin drugs prolong life and are safe.

Fact: WRONG. Just wanted to be clear there. There is no data showing that statin drugs offer anything to prolong life, and statin drugs have plenty of side effects, including muscle weakness and pain, low libido (cholesterol is the precursor for your sex hormones), and memory loss, to name a few. Great, so I can take an ineffective drug (that the pharmaceutical companies are making a killing on)?not avoid a heart attack AND be in pain and not want to have sex. Which won?t be an issue really, because I?d be too weak to do that anyways. Good news is, I won?t remember any of that. And since my memory is lousy, I also won?t remember reading all of the studies that are now showing that statin drugs cause diabetes. Yikes. Think I?m kidding? I see it in my office every day. And, over 65% of doctors don?t report the side effects, so we don?t even know the whole story!

Okay, so I promised myself that I?d keep it to five myths, but there are more. We?re being duped. The ONLY population that seems to be MILDLY positively affected by statins are middle-aged men who have already had a heart attack. And I do mean mildly. And studies are popping up now that are linking that mild affect to the anti-inflammatory action of statins, as opposed to the hampering of cholesterol manufacturing.

Creating vibrant health is a process, not a prescription.

With love & clarity,


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