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If there is anything that natural health experts, including this one, are sure of, it is that lowering cholesterol is no panacea for health problems. That doesn't mean, however, sometimes taking a statin cholesterol-lowering drug is never a good idea.

American doctors want essentially all their patients to take cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. European health authorities have suggested adding statins to the water supply. Are all these experts crazy, or are cholesterol drugs really vital to health?

If there is anything on which most experts on natural health agree, it is that statin medications and low-cholesterol diets for lowering cholesterol are at best superfluous for healthy lifestyles and are most likely to be the cause of more health problems than the cure.

After all, literally dozens of medical studies have found that lowering cholesterol doesn't really lower the risk of heart disease. Some medical studies have even found that lowering cholesterol makes death from cardiovascular complications more likely.

No Relationship Between Cardiovascular Disease and Total Cholesterol

There certainly is no relationship between cardiovascular disease and total cholesterol. And even the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) fraction turns out not to be as harmful as doctors told us for over 40 years that it was.

No Relationship Between Cardiovascular Disease and LDL Cholesterol

Low-density lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol is essentially a big balloon of cholesterol inside a coating or protein that travels through the bloodstream. High-density lipoprotein or HDL cholesterol is essentially a tiny ball of cholesterol inside a similar protein coating that travels through the bloodstream.

Only certain, “fluffy” particles of LDL cholesterol called apolipoprotein B (or apo-B) cause cardiovascular disease. These particles of LDL cholesterol are just the right size to get “stuck” in the linings of arteries. And even when this apo-B cholesterol sticks to the lining of arteries, it doesn't automatically become an artery-clogging plaque.

Immune System Converts Cholesterol into a Dangerous Form

The requires the action of the immune system, specifically the action of a group of white blood cells known as macrophages, literally “big eaters.” These white blood cells feed on cholesterol, and then they themselves get stuck in the lining of the artery and calcify. It's the combined mass of cholesterol, white blood cells, and calcium that actually causes the clogs.

The tests your doctor is likely to order for you do not measure the actually artery-clogging ….. cholesterol.

Add to that the common knowledge that our bodies make most of their cholesterol from sugars, not from fats, and that only a small part of the cholesterol in foods like bacon and eggs can even be absorbed into the bloodstream, and the knowledge that HDL cholesterol protects against heart disease, statin drugs would seem to be silly.

"Cholesterol Lowering" Drugs Still Sometimes Make Sense

But they're not. In fact, after 20 years of refusing them, I take a high dose of a statin drug myself. The real value of statin drugs to heart health to me does not have anything to do with cholesterol. I was extremely lucky to survive a condition known as a coronary aneurysm, a "blow out" of an artery on the side of my heart that required surgery to rebuild. I take a statin drug every day to help the "blow out" shrink back to its normal size, even though I have naturally low cholesterol. 

The area of concern is not that my cholesterol is too high. It's not. But statin drugs, it turns out, do a lot more than just lower cholesterol.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • Devaraj S, Rogers J, Jialal I. Statins and biomarkers of inflammation. Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2007 Jan. 9(1):33-41
  • Raux M, Cochennec F, Becquemin JP. Statin therapy is associated with aneurysm sac regression after endovascular aortic repair.J Vasc Surg. 2012 Jun. 55(6):1587-92. Epub 2012 Mar 28
  • Photo courtesy of gatiuss on Flickr:
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