My Cholesterol Rant

Cholerterol Cartoon

Almost every week in my office, I see a new patient who is on a statin drug prescribed by the patient’s MD for high cholesterol. Of all the drugs that have been prescribed en masse, nothing is more futile than the statin drug. In 2010, the best-selling drug was Lipitor (a brand name statin) with sales of 7.2 billion dollars . So I’d like to start with some basic facts about statins.

The one fact that, for some reason, seems to get overlooked is that statins DO NOT prevent heart disease or heart attacks. Lipitor has not extended a single person’s life by a single day; yet it is prescribed like candy. What are the criteria then for so many prescriptions? The data from the companies that sell these drugs are very clear and available to the public. However, it can be confusing for the layperson to sort through it all–so I will do my best to translate some of the data for you.

In statistics there is a number used to determine the effectiveness of a medication; this number is known as Number Needed to Treat (NNT). It represents the number of patients who need to be treated in order for one to benefit from the drug.  If a drug has an NNT of one, it means that every person who takes the drug receives a beneficial outcome. If it has an NNT of 10, it means you have to treat 10 people for one to have a benefit.  The NNT of Lipitor is 100. Another way to say this is that Lipitor has a 99-percent failure rate.

What Lipitor will do is lower your cholesterol. If this is so, why doesn’t it prevent heart disease?  The simple answer is that there is no correlation between heart disease and cholesterol. In other words, of the people who have heart attacks, about one-half will have “high” cholesterol and one-half will have normal or low cholesterol.

Cholesterol is not fat; it is a waxy substance of which about 80 percent is made in the liver. It is produced from a molecule called HMG-CoA. Statins poison the enzyme that converts this molecule to cholesterol.  They also stop the production of CoQ10, which is an essential part of the production of ATP, the main energy unit of our cells.  Ironically, the highest concentration of CoQ10 is in the heart.

Cholesterol is the substance from which all of our steroid hormones (estrogen, testosterone, cortisol etc.) are made. It is also present in every cell membrane. When there is damage to the wall of an artery, cholesterol is sent in to “patch” that damage. Cholesterol itself, however, needs to be transported and the proteins that transport it to and from the cells are known as low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins. (HDL).  These are often erroneously referred to as “bad” and “good” cholesterol respectively. LDL is responsible for taking cholesterol from the liver to the tissues, and HDL is responsible for recirculating the HDL from the tissues back to the liver. They are strictly shuttles that take cholesterol to and from tissues. LDL particles, however, come in different sizes and new tests can determine what your LDL particles are made of. They basically fall into two types: large buoyant and small dense.  It is the small, dense particles that can get under the lining of your blood vessels and oxidize and cause a plaque to form.  The large buoyant particles are too large to get under the lining and do not pose a threat.

Statin drugs do nothing to modulate the size of the particles.  This is done through diet alone. And the most offending food, the one that drives those small, dense particles? Sugar. Sugar is the main cause of both increased small LDL particles and increased triglycerides (fat) – not saturated fat.  One of the worst things you can do for your heart is to go on a low-fat diet. A low-fat diet is, by definition, a high-carbohydrate diet, which is a recipe for heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes etc.

If your doctor is trying to put you on a statin, or if you are currently on a statin, I would highly recommend that you get the more specific particle testing done. The two labs that we use at our office are the Lipoprotein Particle Profile by Spectracell Laboratories and the VAP Cholesterol test through Quest Diagnostics.

A normal total cholesterol level is between 180 and 250. These numbers in themselves are meaningless because two people can have the exact same numbers but be at completely different risks. A total cholesterol count below 160 becomes problematic because the body doesn’t have enough of the building blocks it needs to maintain cellular health and steroid hormones.  I found this video from the movie “Fathead” that sheds some truth on the cholesterol debate. Please feel free to leave a comment below, I would love to hear your feedback or answer questions you may have about this subject.

YouTube Preview ImageMy Cholesterol Rant

 

 

19 Comments

  • Lenka Dresselhaus

    Reply Reply April 27, 2011

    Your rant is much appreciated Dr. Weeks! Great info to pass along. :)

  • Bobby Fernandez

    Reply Reply April 27, 2011

    Great post Dr. Weeks. What goes for Conventional Wisdom today is all very counter intutitive if you really think it all through and view the patient as a being comprised of multiple systems of both subtle and gross energy and life-force.

    I feel that deep down, MDs know the true stats and futility of their efforts but as far as the AMA, NHS, HHS, FDA, et. al. are concerned, there is nothing else to be done. They are partly correct because true liberation from the ills of an unhealthy lifestyle require a heavy investment from the patient in the way of real modifications to diet, physical activity and stress management. The sad truth is, most Americans would rather be mis-lead and pop a pill than heed the truth and have to lift more than a finger for the sake of their health.

  • Yes! Thanks for posting this Dr. Weeks, there’s so much misinformation being passed around, even by the medical community itself.

    Unfortunately I feel that your rant will fall on death ears. Those who want to inform themselves will continue to do so, but most people aren’t willing to take the effort to inform themselves, even for something as important as their own health.

  • Karen Green

    Reply Reply May 17, 2011

    Thanks, Dr. Weeks. I would like to share this link, including the video, but wanted to be able to say what the source of the video is. Can you confirm that?

    • Hi Karen,

      Thanks for sharing! The video is from the documentary “Fathead”.

  • Bryan McHeyzer

    Reply Reply May 31, 2011

    Hi Dr Weeks,
    Great explaination … the trouble with us humans is that we just don’t like to change and once we start getting used to seeing one Dr we seem to stick with them even if their information is not quite up to date.
    While I am sure every Dr does the best for their patients…not every one can be up to date in all aspects of health…too many advancements
    Cheers
    Bryan

  • Allegra Sinclair

    Reply Reply June 1, 2011

    Wow,
    It’s scary the amount of misinformation that is accepted as fact, especially in the medical community. I shudder to think about the amount of money being made on other drugs that have a similar lack of connection between their use and proven health benefits. (sigh) Thanks for sharing this valuable information. And please keep ranting. Have a powerful week! Allegra

  • Steve Dooley

    Reply Reply June 2, 2011

    Dr. Shannon,

    This is a very informative article. It seems that the best way to reduce heart disease is through diet and exercise. Why is it that so many physicians prescribe stuff like Lipitor knowing that it has a NNT of 100? Is getting paid a motivating factor driving this “bandaid” approach to ACS? I’d love to hear your take on it

    Thanks for the great rant!

  • Lynn Jones

    Reply Reply June 2, 2011

    This information needs to be out in the masses. So many people are duped by their doctors and what the media says about our health. I really appreciate and endorse practicing Natural Medicine. Thank you so much for your life and what you believe in. You are truly living it and helping people in the right way.

  • I agree with you about Lipitor. It seems like a very common medicine people take in order to control their cholesterol. However a lot of people are under the misconception that it should also lower their risks for heart disease. I’m glad you clarified that the two don’t really go hand in hand, due to the statistics.

  • Pearly Quah

    Reply Reply June 7, 2011

    Dr Shannon,

    You have made your explanation so detailed and yet easy to understand.

    Honestly, this is my first time to come across the drug called statin and it is good that I read about it from your post.

    Shannon, thank you for this info and you have given me a good understanding of cholesterol which I always think it is fat.

    Pearly

  • Laura Paulson

    Reply Reply June 14, 2011

    Very informative post Dr. Shannon, thank you! It’s amazing to me how much misinformation is out there and I just shake my head at the amount of money that is wasted on what are thought to be quick fix drugs that don’t even do what people think they do. It’s just so easy and all too common practice to just swallow a pill for whatever ails you but what that’s doing to our bodies is just??? The long term affects are just staggering. The basics of eating natural foods, exercise and being informed is the ticket

  • Thank you so much for this post, Dr. Shannon! Your description is clear and so very good to know. My husband has been misinformed about his cholesterol — I will be forwarding this information on to him! Thank you again!

  • Ayoub Qadri

    Reply Reply September 3, 2011

    Thank you Dr. Shannon for an excellent brief on the “conventional wisdom” surrounding treatment prescribed for cholesterol.
    I have had high cholesterol since 25 years (I am 50 right now). My doctor prescribed the drug to me and after doing some basic research I realized that there is too much controversy over the drug for me to simply take it without questioning its legitimacy. Over the years, i lowered my cholesterol by 50 points simply by changing my diet (cutting on animal fat, but actually eating moderately an egg a week, switching to full fat milk with my oats, loading up on Hummus, salads, pomegranate, walnuts, almonds, etc.). The main thing I do is avoid eating anything that has “hydrogenated fat”. From my reading, that seems to be the KILLER.
    Anyway, thanks a lot for your write up; it added value to my database of information on the subject.

    Ayoub

  • David Merrill

    Reply Reply November 16, 2011

    Unfortunately, most physicians are far more concerned with illness than health. It’s not surprising, though. Their training is primarily in pharmaceutical intervention of illness, not in lifestyle considerations related to health.

    Most doctors probably treat and advise their patients to the best of their abilities. It is, however, their abilities that you must question.

    Thanks for the clarification on the cholesterol situation, Dr. Weeks. My wife and I both tried statins because the doctor suggested it in view of some high cholesterol numbers we had. We both experienced very negative effects early on, discontinued the treatment, and got back to the basics of diet and exercise. We both feel a lot better for having done so, and we don’t really want to even get tested anymore to see how the numbers have gone.
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  • Barbara Harnsberger

    Reply Reply November 19, 2011

    Dr. Weeks……. Thank you for sharing this post. I have heard many things on statins and my husband has taken Lipitor for years. I am glad there are people out there who are willing to say what is true and help people to live a longer life.
    I have a friend who tried statins and it affected her so bad she went off I will be sharing this with her and everyone else I can.
    Thanks again,
    Barbara
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  • Sharon Johnson

    Reply Reply January 19, 2012

    Thank You Dr. Weeks
    I had to copy this post to show my hubby, he has vascular decease has had two stents and leg to leg bypass
    and is still in a lot of leg pain, but won’t give up the sugar.
    Maybe if he reads this it might help
    Again Thank
    Sharon
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  • Lauri Portwood

    Reply Reply June 29, 2013

    Ok I found the name of the book in your archives July 2010. The Devil in the Milk by Keith Woodford. And the cholestrol tests were in this artical. Sorry i just needed to look a little better. Thanks

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