Smorgasbord Health Column – The Cholesterol Myth – Part One – and Statins the new research! Sally Cronin

I have often highlighted the inconsistencies of medical studies and the profound and sometimes downright dangerous statements made that vilify or extol the virtues of either a food or medication. This was the case in 2012 when a Professor, labeled one of the UK’s leading experts stated that everyone over the age of 50 should be prescribed statins to reduce their cholesterol levels.

At the time I predicted that a high percentage of those who were prescribed statins would have no decrease in their elevated harmful cholesterol levels, for one very good reason. They would assume that it was a magic pill and continue to eat foods, such as industrially manufactured packaged meals, and not eat fresh foods ‘cooked from scratch’ that naturally balance cholesterol levels.

Please do not stop taking any medication you have been prescribed without consultation with your doctor.

So here is the original 2012 report….

Statins should be given to all over-50s, regardless of their health history, because they dramatically cut the risk of heart attacks and strokes in later life, one of the UK’s leading experts has said.

Currently statins are given only to high-risk patients, around eight million people, who have high cholesterol or have a risk of heart disease.

But there is ‘clear evidence’ that healthy people can also benefit based on their age alone, says Professor Sir Rory Collins.

And here is a recent study of 165,000 people over 26 years on the impact on their cholesterol levels.

April 16 (UPI) — A well-known drug used to fight cholesterol may not be working as well as it should, new research shows.

After two years of treatment with statins, about half of patients in primary care still didn’t hit healthy cholesterol levels, according to a study published Monday in the journal Heart.

“Currently, there is no management strategy in clinical practice which takes into account patient variations in [low-density cholesterol] response, and no guidelines for predictive screening before commencement of statin therapy,” the researchers wrote.

The researchers reviewed data collected between 1990 and 2016 for more than 165,000 patients who weren’t treated for heart disease or a stroke. These people had their cholesterol measured at least once a year.

Over the next few posts I am going to revisit Cholesterol, why the body actually needs this essential component for a number of vital health reasons, and how you can improve the healthy type of cholesterol (high density lipoprotein) and decrease the more harmful type (low density lipoprotein)

I often get emails from readers of my books about the basic key indicators that are essential to keep us alive and healthy – These are LDL Cholesterol levels – Blood Pressure and Blood Sugar Levels…I will post updated articles on the last two following on from Cholesterol.

Why we should all respect cholesterol and manage its levels in our bodies.

I respect and manage my cholesterol levels because without it there are certain vital functions in my body that would not happen.

  • I am rather attached to my steroidal hormones, including the sterol Vitamin D (thinks it’s a hormone), that keeps me happy in the winter, free of colds and flu.
  • It also keeps my bones strong by regulating calcium in my blood and other vital components such as cortisol, there when I need it to deal with stress.
  • Also DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone), very important for my bone density now I am in my 60’s as well as helping keeping me young and remembering what happened yesterday.
  • I was grateful for my progesterone in my younger days that kept my periods more or less regular and for the oestrogens that developed me into the woman I was and remain today.
  • I am also hoping that my cholesterol, which is very important for my eyesight will prevent me from developing cataracts in my 70’s and 80’s.
  • Or from developing Dementia and keeping me active until a ripe old age.

Sound flippant?

A little yes, but not so flippant as the suggestion that everyone over the age of 50, whatever their current cholesterol readings should be given Statins or other cholesterol lowering drugs.

My feeling is that the NHS has given up trying to educate its clients into adopting a healthier diet and exercising more, and is going with the mass medication option because they say it will prevent cardiovascular disease and dementia down the line. Quite frankly, they are terrified – they have an aging population- who are going to be more likely to develop heart disease, cancer, and dementia simply because the natural process is deterioration.

However, without the protection of healthy forms of cholesterol many functions in the body are compromised including brain health and our sex drive.

What is ‘flippantly’ ignored is that cholesterol is not some demon substance that has invaded our bodies and is rampaging out of control through our blood stream, but essential to our fundamental health and well-being. There are a number of people who are genetically prone to cholesterol health issues, and of course then medication may be the right decision, but it should never be something that is given to all.

There are some lifestyle and dietary changes that we can all make to make sure that the cholesterol in our bodies is getting on with its job and not causing us health problems, but before I move onto the solutions, I would like to spend a little exploring the reasons for the interactions that are taking place and resulting in clogged arteries.

I admit that I do use the term lousy cholesterol for low density lipoprotein – because this is the one that can get contaminated and cause health problems. Although when talking about cholesterol we refer to high density lipoprotein and very low density lipoproteins (not usually in substantial amounts) as well, they are all the same molecularly but have different packaging to be transported in the blood stream.

HDL and LDL sub divide into different types of lipoproteins and at the moment more is still to be discovered about this.

The LDL is associated with the plaque that forms in the arteries leading to blockages – the smaller the size of the LDL particles the more you are likely to develop coronary disease than if the particles are larger and less dense. There is a theory that if the walls of the arteries are damaged in any way, the smaller and denser particles of the LDL can push their way through that break in the tissue and start clumping together to form the plaque whilst the larger HDL particles would not gain purchase.

In essence then, whilst the LDL cholesterol does have a role in the body there are strong indications that if there is already weakness in the artery it will attract the smaller particles that will then clump forming the harmful plaque leading to coronary disease. There is another problem with LDL cholesterol which is oxidation – this is where the particles react with free radicals, produced through a number of activities including smoking and eating a diet high in white fat as found in processed foods, crisps, pastries and cookies.

In my next post I am going to focus on what happens when that oxidation of LDL takes place and why the HDL is accepted as the healthier cholesterol. For the rest of the series I will look at some strategies to get the LDL levels down, raise the HDL and make sure that all of us do not end up on Statins without a libido!

©sally cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2019

A little bit about me nutritionally.

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with over twenty years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse by health books and fiction you can find them here:

Thanks for dropping in today and if you have any questions please use the comments or if your prefer you are more than welcome to email me on


31 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Health Column – The Cholesterol Myth – Part One – and Statins the new research! Sally Cronin

  1. Hi Sally, I had a very good friend years ago who was a doctor of Toxicology . He was highly regarded and wrote a book on various drugs and their uses/dangers. (Tragically he never took his own advice and died of cancer from over-indulgence (cigarettes and drink) aged 60.). He is much missed. When we discussed health issues (he knew I had BP and mild strokes) he urged me to continue taking ‘the tablets.’ As you pointed out, the trouble is, lots of folk continue eating the wrong food and there lies the problem, methinks! Hugs xx

    Liked by 3 people

    • To be honest Joy with your medical history then Statins or similar are always going to be prescribed. You have a healthy diet and I know eat good fats and lots of vegetables and fruit, so you are providing your body with what it needs to be nutritionally supported. If you are not suffering any of the known side-effects then I would say you are better off taking the meds…poor chap.. cigarettes and drink… xxxx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have been so frustrated with the use of statins. Yes, they play an important role for some people, but I have also observed patients undergoing zero lifestyle changes fully relying on these ‘magic pills’ to mop up the dietary mess (ineffectively, I might add). My father was put on a statin in his early 90’s much to my chagrin! Really? Why were we trying to prevent? A heart attack at age 110? The overprescription of this class of meds really blows my mind.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I agree Molly and in fact the reverse has been identified for those over 75 and that they should not be prescribed Statins unless they have had a heart attack or mini-stroke. Cholesterol plays a major role in our chemical make-up and certainly as far as our brain health is concerned it is vital. We are dishing out a number of ‘magic pills’ that do not deal with the fundamental problem which is in many cases an artificially produced diet. Most doctors do not have a basic understanding of the nutritional needs of the body… can you imagine a mechanic not knowing what fuel a Ferrari needs to run efficiently! hugs Sally

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Looking forward to more of this. I suffered a very mini stroke last September. The specialist who treated me noted a blood test result from the previous December which indicated high cholesterol (6) and prescribed statins. I was already being careful about my diet, as we both are. I suspect my current sinus problems may be connected to the continued use of statins. I consulted my GP who said don’t stop taking them and authorised a blood test. He tells me the result is “satisfactory” what ever that means!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I am afraid that any medication will have side effects and evidence is indicating that older we get the more we need our cholesterol.. in fact in a recent study a healthy HDL but slightly higher cholesterol level was associated with better overall health.

      Your doctor is right to be concerned with you having a mini stroke and it is standard to prescribe Statins. But I do suggest that you retest in 3 months time, and if your doctor won’t do it then many pharmacies will do the test for you and get the results explained. What are the LDL (poor cholesterol) and HDL (Healthy) What was the VLDL (Very low density lipoprotein) which is prone to clumping in the arteries. If the HDL is quite a bit higher higher you are in good shape.
      I do suggest these foods if you are not already including them regularly in your diet…there are others but these are the key ones in my opinion and I recommend to everyone…porridge oats (soluble fibre binds to cholesterol in the bloodstream), freshly squeezed apple juice (pectin helps lower LDL and helps clean the bile ducts to the liver) At least 3 cups of pure green tea (not flavoured) a day, and healthy fats in deep sea caught salmon and avocados. There is several good reasons why an apple a day keeps the doctor away!! Hope that helps Frank.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I guess I should consider myself lucky I can’t take statins. But here’s the thing. I eat well, mostly chicken, salads, veggies, and I still have a cholesterol problem. It’s in my genetics. So how do I combat that?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi Dorinda.. Low Density Lipoprotein LDL is detected by a receptor in the liver and it clears the excess cholesterol from the bloodstream. In most cases where high cholesterol is genetic, that receptor gene has mutated and does not remove the excess. However, the liver produces cholesterol, does not identify that, and assumes that there is not enough in the bloodstream, producing more and adding it to the already excessive amount.
      Unfortunately, whilst a good diet and exercise do help, they are not entirely effective. That makes a person who has this problem a candidate for medication and they should talk to their doctor about one of the option, there are others besides Statins.
      If this is a genetic problem then there are some symptoms that usually are more evident when someone gets into their 40s such as white rings around the cornea of the eye. The main indicator is a family history of high cholesterol.
      From a food perspective I usually suggest porridge oats (soluble fibre binds to cholesterol in the bloodstream), freshly squeezed apple juice (pectin helps lower LDL and helps clean the bile ducts to the liver) At least 3 cups of pure green tea (not flavoured) a day, and healthy fats in deep sea caught salmon and avocados.
      If you are doing all of this and still have elevated LDL then I do suggest that you consult your doctor about a diagnosis and medication.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. As anyone who has taken an elementary course in statistics will learn is how easily they are manipulated. “There are three kinds of lies, lies, damned lies and statistics.” – Benjamin Disraeli.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Love all your health articles Sal. Thankfully, my cholesterol levels remain in good standing, but for those who must take medication, I’ve read a lot of good praise for Red Rice yeast in capsule form helps naturally. Also, so important that those on Statins take CoQ Innoquonol along side the drug to alleviate muscle aches that could come from the drug. 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Too bad common sense can’t be bottled. Would be so much more useful than 9/10ths of today’s “medicine.”

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Another common sense article Sally as always…My mum has the white rings around her cornea luckily she is an advocate for healthy eating and tweaked her diet, even more,… to get her cholesterol down to acceptable levels which worked for her and avoided taking statins…I check my eyes vigilantly and have no sign of those white rings so hopefully, I don’t have that gene. Diet so plays such an important role in our health and well being I just wish the government would spend money on teaching that from the start in schools …They would see the benefits at some point if it was a top priority in the medical bills and healthcare provision a total overall is needed…Reblogged Hugs xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for sharing that Carol and brilliant that your mum managed that with diet. If you haven’t got the white rings around your eyes now you are unlikely to have the genetic form of cholesterol…around the 45 mark is usual but some show them earlier. And I agree about the focus on health and also cooking healthily from a very early age in school, which some do to be fair, but not as many that should. They have to tackle the fast food industry too since that seems to be the go to food source as soon as they leave home. xxxxx

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s good my mum did get them a fair few years ago now ..I have been checking my eyes for years…Yes she was and that’s probably where I get my thing about taking
        medication from… yes it does for many but those who cook always cook …My kids do and I do the same with Aston and Lily let them help…I always say they will only grate their fingers once….So fast food for our family is a real treat( for) them not me…haha…But now Aston is getting older he wants the good restaurants..teach them to love food and they always will…Most people who eat fast food who I know don’t cook and don’t eat veg…Just tax the fast food restaurants and lower the tax on healthy restaurants that will sort them…I really should be in charge my biggest regret not going into politics well one of them…haha


  9. Yup, easy answers are often not the best or correct. If one doesn’t have an LDL problem one doesn’t need a statin–except, in some cases to boost a way low HDL. But exercise will help raise that one. And a better diet will help get the LDL down and the HDL up. After losing a bunch of weight and getting more exercise (plus eating better) I progressively cut the statin down to size–the lowest available Rx dose. I probably won’t go ALL the way off given a possible (but not too substantial) artery risk.

    Liked by 1 person

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  12. Great article and timely for me as I’ve been fighting with my dr. who wants me on statins. I think the problem is involving my underproducing thyroid (Synthroid for a number of years has done wonders – problems genetic within family, sadly) Something’s changed and I’d rather find out and discuss why before adding another issue:side effects from statins. (I had one doc prescribe those back when they though every adult alive should be on them=UGH worse experience of my life. Felt terrible)
    I don’t like just taking the easy way out buy throwing pills
    We do old fashion oatmeal, and lots of fruits and veggies – pretty much Mediterranean diet as I was raised on a fresh food farm diet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your diet sounds ideal and so unlikely to be an issue. Synthroid or Levothyroxine taken long term has not been shown to have any side effects but as we get older there are changes in the way we digest food and also medication. For example in pill form because of less efficient digestion it is not absorbed in the same way. I suggest that you talk to your doctor about crushing the pills and taking in liquid 30 to 60 minutes before a meal as that might improve absorption. The problem with an underactive thyroid is that it does encourage raised levels of LDL cholesterol. Poor gut health can also be a contributing factor and although research is still ongoing including bacteria rich foods such as sauerkraut, Kefir can help as can taking supplemental probiotics.. I would suggest that you ask your doctor to do a B12 deficiency test to check levels and the symptoms as along with selenium and iodine are often deficient in patients with low functioning thyroids. There are supplements available containing all three and it might be worth considering for two to three months with you doctor’s agreement.. Hope that helps.


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