If there is one medical word drummed into our heads over the last 25 years it is probably cholesterol. It has been much maligned and we have been well trained to get it as low as possible, most notably by taking pharmaceutical drugs.
What if everything we have been told about cholesterol was simply wrong?
Cholesterol is a waxy fatty substance that circulates in our blood. It has many essential biological uses, it is responsible for every cell membrane in our body, and somewhat importantly, helping our brains form memories. Another important benefit is that your body uses sunlight to turn cholesterol into vitamin D, a deficiency of which is an increasingly large problem in the west. You can see by this abbreviated list that cholesterol has a pretty important role in our health.
The whole cholesterol demonization process started because scientists found an association between high levels of cholesterol and heart disease. Cholesterol was the new target, every major drug company created a cholesterol lowering drug called ‘statins’ and these are big business. I have read newspaper articles in New Zealand stating that as many as 300,000 kiwis are on statins – that’s getting on towards 10% of the population. There is no doubt they are massively over prescribed.
The research into the benefits of statins is dodgy to say the least. The biggest selling one is Lipitor, and according to the drug companies own newspaper ads it prevents one heart attack in every 100 people…over a whole 3.3 years. Scientists have a number to describe this, the NNT number, or ‘Number Needed to Treat’. What that means, is exactly how it sounds, how many people they needed to drug in order to avoid one negative event (i.e. a heart attack). It’s a truly shocking revelation for people when they realize that 99 people out of every 100 are in fact drugged for no benefit, by that I mean it doesn’t prevent them having a heart attack. Businessweek wrote an excellent article on this data and it was suggested that even this statistic is exaggerated due to drug companies ‘cherry picking’ people for their trials; they carefully select people whom they know will get more benefit than your average Joe (i.e. the people that these drugs will actually be prescribed to). An estimate given is that these drugs (based on how they are really prescribed) may actually only be stopping a single heart attack in every 500 people.
I won’t go too much further into dodgy research, except to say that drug companies are constantly flooding the market with positive, new statin drug studies and are claiming all sorts of amazing, unrelated benefits. I suspect that most of these are further manipulation of statistics.
The cholesterol story has been modified to state that there is now HDL and LDL; good and so called bad cholesterol. In fact, cholesterol is a fat, it is not soluble in our watery blood and as you will appreciate from washing your frying pans…fat and water don’t mix well. For this reason, cholesterol binds to proteins, creating HDL and LDL. The story gets murkier here as well, as the so called LDL or ‘bad cholesterol’ is not just a homogenous substance; we know that it comes in many particle sizes. It’s the small particles that seem to be causing the issues with clogging our arteries, whereas the big particles are not thought to be an issue. This makes determining risk (due to overall LDL or total cholesterol levels) problematic. Examining total cholesterol or even LDL levels in isolation is unlikely to give an accurate indication of risk.
So, getting to my point…have we been fighting the wrong target?
LDL Cholesterol when taken into consideration with all the other risk factors can be a useful indication of a need to change, but nearly all people can do wonders with a change in their diet and lifestyle. I should point out that some people have a genetic predisposition to abnormally high cholesterol, and these people may do well with medication, but when you consider the side effects, including ‘dementia like symptoms’ (remember earlier its importance in forming memories?) I think statins should be a last resort for most people. The risk of side effects is probably significantly under-quoted as well.
So, if we are fighting the wrong enemy…what’s the real culprit?
Modern research suggests inflammation. Inflammation is actually also much maligned, but it is important for wound healing, it thickens your blood and does other useful things at certain times, but chronic inflammation is a bad thing, and it’s this chronic inflammation that we can’t feel that is linked to numerous diseases, including cancers and heart disease.
This inflammation is caused by (amongst other things) smoking, lack of exercise, stress, eating rancid fats, obesity, alcohol abuse, eating food cooked at too high a temperature, Omega-6 fatty acids and too many grains and sugars! On the grains front our Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio in our bodies has blown out to 15:1, when historically many scientists thought it was 1:1. Omega-6 promotes inflammation, Omega-3 reduces inflammation. That’s a big deviation from our ancestral diet, and studies have shown that reverting this ratio back can reduce your chances of getting certain cancers.
It is thought that the inflammation caused by these factors causes the cracks in the arteries that the (so called) LDL or bad cholesterol plasters over, thereby narrowing the artery and causing a heart attack. Again, it is thought that the small LDL particles do this, with the larger ones being harmless.
And that’s why we fight cholesterol; perhaps we are fighting the symptom instead of the root cause…inflammation. There are scientists who disagree with this, I suggest you read up online and form your own opinion. Here are two great articles to start you off.
Oh , and a hint of some big news about Lester’s Oil. I can’t release this yet but we have been busy conducting a human trial with a major university. We have significant results in just four weeks of using Lester’s Oil. All studies have a degree of certainly about the results (based on factors including sample size). What I can say is that we are 95% certain that Lester’s Oil reduces C-Reactive Protein (CRP) levels in just 4 weeks. What’s CRP? C-Reactive protein is something called a ‘bio-marker’ for inflammation, it is measured from a blood test. You can think of it as an indicator of your body’s inflammation. High levels of CRP are a risk factor for diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease and possibly cancers.
Human research is expensive, that’s why most companies don’t do it. I didn’t undertake it lightly. I wanted to have some real world data because, as you know, Lester’s Oil is a unique combination of 6 key ingredients and we believe this formula is much more beneficial than just taking fish oil. It’s a big deal for us and I can assure you that the results are genuine, we had no hand in how the data has been generated, we are not a pharmaceutical company!
So get it now 😉 More to come soon…
Daniel King, MSc (hons)