October 31, 2011

138 The Cholesterol Theory of Heart Disease [31 October 2011]

Did you notice in last week’s column the reference to the inverse correlation between cholesterol levels and mortality in women? This deserves further discussion.

The same 1990 Bethesda conference found a correlation between cholesterol and mortality for men, but only when cholesterol was very high (over 240 mg/dl) or very low (below 160). For women, the inverse correlation held over the entire range of cholesterol levels.

This is just one more added to a growing stack of studies (and group of scientists) which do not support the cholesterol and saturated fat theory of heart disease. So how did the theory originate and why is it still so widely held?

The cholesterol theory was first proposed over 100 years ago by a German pathologist who discovered cholesterol in arterial plaque. In 1913 a Russian scientist found that feeding cholesterol to rabbits caused atherosclerotic changes in their arteries.

A study published in 1953 by Dr. Ancel Keys known as the “Seven Countries Study” claimed to prove the link between dietery fats and heart disease. Had Keys however used the data from all 22 countries then available, there would have been no correlation.

Next was the Framingham Study which identified heart disease factors including smoking, high blood pressure, lack of exercise, and high cholesterol. The cholesterol link, however, was weak and a director of the study, Dr. William Castelli, later wrote of their findings in a 1992 editorial that “…the more saturated fat one ate, the more cholesterol one ate, the more calories one ate, the lower the person’s serum cholesterol”. Another Framingham finding (which was ignored) was that people whose cholesterol had declined were more likely to die prematurely than those whose cholesterol had remained the same or increased.

The U.S. Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial (MRFIT) trial, first published in 1999, publicized that people who ate a low-saturated fat and low-cholesterol diet had a (small) reduction in heart disease. But they neglected to mention that mortality from all causes was actually higher. And so on.

For more detailed analysis see “Debunking the Myth About High Cholesterol Levels” on www.mercola.com.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

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