Sunday, March 6, 2011
Cholesterol, It's Good for You
Before you start to feel superior as you look back at the myths of ancient Rome, Greece or other civilizations, you might just want to give some thought to the myths we live with today because they can lead you to waste a lot of money and even put your life at risk.
The greatest myth of recent times has been “global warming”, but we know now that the only global warming was an entirely natural cycle that began in 1850 as a response to five centuries of extremely cold weather. That warming cycle ended in 1998 as the Earth swung back into a new, natural cooling cycle now setting all kinds of records for low temperatures, increased blizzards, and such.
Let us examine a myth even closer to home for anyone who has concern for their personal health. Dr. Ernest N. Curtis, MD, has a wonderful new book out, “The Cholesterol Delusion” ($13.99, Dog Ear Press, Indianapolis, IN, softcover) that draws on his decades as a physician and his extensive research surrounding the “Cholesterol Theory” that equates “too much” cholesterol with heart disease, damage, and death. Simply put, the theory was based on “virtually nonexistent evidence.”
“As the years went by, I continually counseled my patients to eat what they liked, ignore their cholesterol levels, and avoid cholesterol-lowering drugs like the plague.”
Dr. Curtis received his B.A. in Biological Sciences from the University of California, Berkeley, and his M.D. from the University of California, Irvine. After a residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in cardiology, Dr. Curtis entered private practice in Long Beach, California where he has practiced for the last 32 years.
You get to see a lot of patients in more than three decades and empirically it was obvious to Dr. Curtis that a wide range of factors impacted atherosclerosis, a degenerative disease involving large and medium sized arteries, coronary artery and heart disease, and myocardial infarction, otherwise known as a heart attack. The least of these factors was cholesterol.
Patients who never smoked, watched their diet closely, got exercise and thought clean thoughts still died from heart attacks.
Ironically, my late Mother, who taught the art of haute cuisine, gourmet cooking and dining, had come to the same conclusion as Dr. Curtis entirely on her own and told her students to ignore all the warnings about cholesterol. She passed away at age 98!
She had learned, as Dr. Curtis notes, that “Cholesterol is one of the most vital and important biochemical compounds in nature. It is a major component of every cell in the body. All cells are enclosed by a membrane that keeps the contents of the cell intact and regulates everything that enters or leaves the cell. All cell membranes are composed of cholesterol and cholesterol-control compounds. Brain and nerve tissue contain the highest proportion of cholesterol in the body.”
Why would anyone want to lower the amount of cholesterol in their body when it is known to perform one of its most vital functions?
As far back as 1925, “it was found that the body manufactured most of its own cholesterol and that in fact the body manufactured several times more cholesterol than was consumed in the diet.”
“Contrary to popular opinion, the major source of this vital compound known as cholesterol,” notes Dr. Curtis, “is our own bodies rather than our diet.”
There is, in fact, no “good” cholesterol or “bad” cholesterol; low or high density lipoproteins. “In reality the only difference is the lipoprotein, the carrier.” The difference between them as regards coronary heart disease is 0.13% or thirteen one hundredths of one percent. That is so minuscule that it cannot even be considered a risk factor.
The cholesterol myth exists because too many physicians accepted it despite ample scientific studies disputing it. It exists because “heart attack” is the easiest thing to which to ascribe a cause of death on the certificate that must be provided. Physicians cannot list “old age” as a cause, nor is there any wiggle room for more complex explanations. The result is a statistical attribution to heart attack that far exceeds actual causes of death, including the obvious, old age.
The danger is that the statin drugs being prescribed today to lower cholesterol can cause damage to the liver or the skeletal muscles. Not only are they expensive, they are unnecessary. Side affects can cause death. A single low-dose aspirin probably does more for heart health than all the statin drugs combined.
Let me close by asking that you pay a lot more attention to all the television advertisements about various pharmaceutical drugs. In particular, pay attention to the “side affects” information provided. If a drug has more side affects than the disease or condition it is supposed to cure, a red flag should go up and caution is advised.
A sensible lifestyle will enhance and prolong your life. Too much of anything is a bad idea. Ignoring long established science and favoring the latest fear-mongering “theory” can kill you.
© Alan Caruba, 2011