Smorgasbord Health Column – The Cholesterol Myth – Part One – Statins, Heart Disease, Statistics by Sally Cronin

Cholesterol plays a vital role in a number of key functions within the body yet it has been demonized and come under attack for the last twenty years. For the majority of the population, heart disease and coronary heart disease is lifestyle related and can be reversed by making changes to diet and lifestyle. This includes eating plenty of good fats and radically reducing industrially produced foods, white refined carbohydrates and an excess of sugar.

N.B. Familial hypercholesterolemia which is an inherited condition is characterized by very high levels of cholesterol in the blood.  An estimated one in 250 people have this condition where they are unable to rid their blood of an excess of cholesterol which can lead to coronary artery disease. They may require medication to maintain a healthy balance. However, that is not the case for the other 249 out of 250 people!

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.

Here is an extract from the original 2012 report….Oxford Professor recommends statins for all over 50s

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.

At the time I predicted in a men’s health book that I wrote, 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.

Also many who were part of the disastrous government experiment that encouraged the high carbohydrate, low fat diet from the 1960s, still follow that advice today, despite many of the statistics behind the edict being disputed.

Worldwide Obesity has nearly tripled since 1975, with about 13% of adults being obese and about 39% of adults being overweight.

Heart disease on the rise – What is even more compelling is a recent report which  that, by 2035, more than 123 million Americans will have high blood pressure, 24 million will have coronary heart disease, and more than 11 million will have experienced a stroke.  All the conditions that the widespread prescribing of Statins was going to prevent.

Here is an extract from a report from 2015 that is pretty damning in the global use of statins based on tainted research and a huge pay day for pharmaceutical companies.The grave danger of Statin Drugs

Once again the medical establishment gets it completely backward.

Heart disease, as many of us know, is one of the leading causes of death in the US, killing about 610,000 people each year. Big Pharma—in the belief that cholesterol is the primary factor in heart disease—developed statin drugs that would lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. The drugs, which have been accompanied by massive marketing campaigns, are huge moneymakers for the drug industry, to the tune of about $29 billion worth of sales in 2013 (. That’s the kind of outrageous money you make when you convince one in four Americans over the age of 45 to take statins.

Over the years we’ve reported on a wide range of negative health effects that have been linked to these drugs. Here is a survey of some of these findings:

  • Statins interfere with the production of coenzyme Q10, which supports the body’s immune and nervous systems, boosts heart and other muscle health, maintains normal blood pressure, and much more.
  • Statins weaken the immune system, make it difficult to fight off bacterial infections, and increase the production of cytokines, which trigger and sustain inflammation.
  • They make some patients unable to concentrate or remember words, and are linked to muscle and neurological problems, including Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
  • Statins inhibit the beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids by promoting the metabolism of omega-6 fatty acids, which increases insulin resistance and the risk of developing diabetes.
  • There is evidence that statin use blocks the benefits of exercise. Exercise increases the activity and numbers of mitochondria, cells’ “power plants” that process sugars and fat. The study found that with statin use, mitochondrial activity actually decreases with exercise.
  • Statins work by reducing the body’s ability to produce cholesterol, which is essential to brain health—the brain is 2% of the body’s weight, but contains 25% of the entire body’s cholesterol.
  • Statin users have a higher incidence of nerve degeneration and pain, memory loss, confusion, depression, and a higher risk of ALS and Parkinson’s, according to Dr. David Williams in his July 2014 Alternatives newsletter. Statins also decrease carotenoid levels. Carotenoids, which are found in fresh fruits and vegetables and act as antioxidants, have a number of benefits, including protecting against cell damage, aging, and chronic diseases.
  • Statin drugs may also be driving Americans to overeat: a twelve-year study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that statin users increased their calorie intake by 9%, and fat consumption by 14.4%, over the study period, whereas those who didn’t take statins didn’t significantly change in either measure.
  • An animal study linked statin use to muscle damage. Animals that exercised on statins had 226% more muscle damage than those not given statins.
  • They affect the quality of sleep.
  • Statins increase the risk of prostate and breast cancer.
  • Statins are known to cause liver damage by increasing the liver’s production of digestive enzymes.
  • Statins also speed aging and lower sex drive.
  • Statins have been linked to aggressive and violent behavior in women.

Despite these widely documented risks, the media’s coverage of any adverse side effects is typically followed by the reassurance that the benefits of statins outweigh the risks.

Another article from 2019 does not pull any punches: Billion dollar industry costing Millions of lives

Again..by making changes to diet and to lifestyle there is evidence that these conditions can be reversed or improved. But, with the majority of doctors receiving no nutritional training in their seven years of study, it is not surprising that prescribing a pill is much easier and convenient for everyone concerned.

I am 67 years old and I have never been asked by a doctor about my diet. I have however surprised several, including presently, by having normal blood pressure, healthy cholesterol and blood sugar. I am a pharmaceutical companies worst customer.

A formula one racing car mechanic will know down to the last millimetre the exact mix required to make sure that his complex engine gets that car over the finish line first. My experience over the last 50 years would indicate that very few doctors have the same interest in the fuel required for the health of  their human patients. I have met some however, who have said that even if they did prescribe health diet and lifestyle changes, most of their patients just want a pill!

You will have heard more frequently that doctors are not practicing medicine but crisis management. That is true, but the fault does not lie solely in their hands, as they are as much a victim of their medical training, fudged research, Government mass marketing of the results and pharma industry profits as we are.

And a great deal of the responsibility for the crisis our health services are experiencing, lies in our own hands.

I am not some skinny ‘expert’ but a ‘fat’ expert having weighed nearly 24 stone/330lbs 25 years ago and suffered from all of the above ‘lifestyle’ related health problems at the age of 42.  That was the reason I decided to study nutrition to find out how to make the necessary changes to save my life and lose 150lbs. I have continued to study obesity, lifestyle diseases and other health issues that are impacting the overall health of my country and yours.

For the last 22 years  I have written books, run my own diet advisory centre, been a health broadcaster, and now write this blog to encourage others to examine their lifestyles and turn back the clock on their health issues.

The  reason the message about our reliance on the quick fix and the alternatives to prescribed medication is not being blasted out to the public, is because they don’t want it out there. Doctors have had their careers ruined, research showing that food and lifestyle can reverses diabetes, heart disease and even cancer has been blocked, and fundamentally our health is being managed by the pharmaceutical companies and the power they hold over those in government.

There are some enlightened physicians and educators out there making documentaries and working to reverse the inherent and ingrained dietary bias about nutritional therapy, but it is not going to change overnight.

Unless we take stock of our diet and lifestyle as individuals make the changes necessary to be healthier and at less risk of becoming a statistic.

I do appreciate that medical advancements in the treatment of certain diseases, life saving surgeries, neonatal care and certain drugs such as antibiotics have saved millions of lives. But with regard to these common lifestyle health issues not so much.

There is still a stigma attached to treatments such as nutritional therapy as not being mainstream, but there is a great deal of research being undertaken to change that attitude. It is worth noting that whereas vitamin therapy, food therapy, herbal remedies, moderate exercise and healthy fats have killed very few people, the following statistics do make you think.Medical errors third leading cause of death in America

  • A recent Johns Hopkins study claims more than 250,000 people in the U.S. die every year from medical errors. Other reports claim the numbers to be as high as 440,000.
  • Medical errors are the third-leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer.

And on the subject of prescription drugs Newspunch.com

Mercola reports:According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 100,000 Americans die from reactions to prescription drugs each year, making this the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. The death toll from ILLEGAL drugs stands at 10,000. Houston (and every other part of the country), we have a problem….

This does not take into account the side effects that 2 million Americans suffer each year from taking prescribed medication and you can find a partial list of 26 listed in the article.

Whilst we have all heard of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery to combat cancer, we hear very little about high dose vitamin therapy. Vitamin C Therapy and Cancer or High dose B3 Niacin for depression FoodMatters.com Vitamin B3 for depression and anxiety. Both of these supported by medically qualified practitioners.

Having said that please do not stop taking any medication you have been prescribed without consultation with your doctor. I also am not advocating that you stop any treatment. I do however suggest that you research a drug or treatment in detail so that it is an informed decision.

I recently ran a series that might help you get started:Project 101 – Resilience – An opportunity to get fighting fit – Round Up

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 to make sure you are maintaining a balance that protects you.

©sally cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2020

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-two 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 my health books and fiction you can find them here: My books and reviews 2020

Your feedback is always welcome and if you do find that following any of the posts that I have shared are beneficial then it would be great to hear about it. If you have any questions you can email me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com.

40 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Health Column – The Cholesterol Myth – Part One – Statins, Heart Disease, Statistics by Sally Cronin

  1. Hmm. Thanks Sally. It makes me wonder if I’m starting on a medication loop: statins to keep my cholesterol down > Polymyalgia-Rhuematica (acute muscle pain) > Steroids > Alendronic acid/colcalciferaol (to restore bone strength reduced by steroids).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am not a doctor Frank.. and I don’t know the circumstances of your cholesterol and if your doctor suggested making changes to your diet before prescribing statins. If your LDL levels and Triglycerides were much higher than you HDL then the concern would be that it might cause blocked arteries which of course leads to heart disease and strokes. Part of the problem is the natural aging of the body when blood vessels do stiffen and become damaged. You cannot stop the medication without consulting your doctor, but I do suggest perhaps approaching it by looking at your diet first and working with you doctor over the next six months to reduce your statins in conjunction with positive test results over that period. Without know your diet I can’t offer you specific advice on any changes however in the post on Friday 18th. I do cover why unhealthy cholesterol develops and the food pyramid changes that can help reverse the problem.. If you would like to read that and then eat normally for a week and let me have all food and liquid intake for the 7 days to my email address sally.cronin@moyhill.com I will let you know if there are any red flags. Usually it is about liver function and how effective it is in managing cholesterol in the body. Hope that helps.. Sally

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  2. I watched a TV show about a GP practice last night in which the doctor was putting pressure on patient who didn’t want to take statins. In the end the patient gave in, but when the doctor went out of the room the patient said to her daughter, ‘I’ll take the prescription to keep her quiet, but I won’t take the tablets.’ Having heard about the side effects, I reckon that patient had the right idea! I was annoyed at how much pressure was being put on her.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Sally, Thank you – always very interesting to read. Twenty or so years ago, I had a mild stroke and was recommended cholesterol tabs. as I had high blood pressure. Apart from having a sweet tooth (but not piggish or very over-weight) my diet’s quite healthy. I’ve never smoked and am a very modest drinker. Over the last twenty years, I had four more mild strokes due to BP and a slight heart irregularity, but apart from extreme tiredness at times,am quite well. We had a lovely friend Dr.Gordon Gibson, a Professor of Toxicology at Surrey University, who wrote a book: ‘Introduction to Drug Metabolism’ with Paul Skett – which I can’t understand.. and Gordon and I had several talks about general health.He recommended I continued with the tabs because of my BP,.despite a slight risk. Tragically – he was a great guy – he died of cancer,(alcoholism and smoking) when around fifty!! He gave his life to research and was highly regarded in the UK and US where he lectured. I think the stress of his work led to his life-style and death.What a loss, eh! I have since asked a doctor should I stop the tabs. but she said no because of high BP. A conundrum to be sure. (I refrain from taking it twice a week though…) Keep up your excellent work, Sally. Hugs. Joy xx.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I was prescribed statins–quite a low dose–some years ago. I notice that one of the possible effects is the inability to remember words. I have noticed this in myself. Sometimes I can’t remember a word I need when writing, and that’s not good as a writer! 😄. It always comes eventually, but I sometimes have to put in a marker.
    I’m also on a low dose of bp medication. My bp is being well controlled by it. I sometimes wonder if I really need it, though.
    The trouble is that I can’t get to see my doctor during this pandemic to discuss my medication.
    And that’s another thing. All healthcare seems to have been put on hold except for Covid-19!
    If I could get rid of some of my medication, it would be great. I do eat healthily on the whole. I could probably improve by eating a few more fruit and vegetables, though. I never eat pre-prepared meals but always cook my own from scratch.
    Thank you for this insight.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Viv.. if only it was as easy to get them to take you off the drugs as it is for them to prescribe them. My mother had been on BP tablets since her 50s.. she fell over and broke her hip at age 88 which had been replaced once already at 72.. I bought a BP cuff and measured it before her pill in the morning and then an hour later – it had gone down to 100 over 50 which is why she fell over.. I charted it and presented the readings after two weeks and he finally withdrew her BP pills. If you have lost weight by even a stone, your blood pressure is like to drop…but many doctors are just writing repeat prescriptions and patients pick them up without having their BP measured for months or even years. It is great that you are eating all your own meals from scratch.. Do try to eat a few more vegetables and some fruit..particularly those rich in potassium… spinach, parsnips, sweet potatoes, bananas, avocados,tomatoes, oranges- You can get BP and Cholesterol checked in pharmacies and if they show normal levels then you have the information to have a conversation with your doctor about perhaps reducing your medication and monitoring BP on a monthly basis.. xx

      Liked by 2 people

      • A most comprehensive and excellent post Sal. I read about those studies and learned about statins years ago – both parents on them. I tried to get my mother to at least take Coq to supplement what statins were supressing, but that’s another story. Oddly, my younger brother was put on statins about 5 years ago. I tried to make him go alternative, but he’s good with having his liver enzymes checked every 3 months. Oye! There’s nothing good about them, but I’ve read a lot about Red Rice Yeast as a natural alternative. What do you know of this? And what would you take as an alternative? ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      • To be honest Debby a natural diet with fibre in wholegrains (even in gluten free) omega 3 fatty acids in oily fish.. Olive Oil and other healthy fats such as avocado (1 a day can reduce LDL) and almonds and walnuts. the key is to make sure you are not consuming transfats and high sugars. Something you already do. I have been drinking a large glass of coconut water every morning for the last two years for both BP and Cholesterol management and more studies are being done all the time but here is one I mention in part three of the series which covers foods etc..♥♥
        https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17004906/

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks so much for the link Sal. I do agree, I’ve been living ‘almost’ clean for years. I only use olive oil or coconut oil. I’m allergic to avocados. I avid transfats like the plague, and my last bloodwork for the first time ever came back a little high on the LDL. I’ve gone back to adding Flaxseed to breakfast. And I read some of the links you sent. Seems coconut oil is not as effective as coconut water 😦 I hate the taste of coconut, lol, I don’t mind the oil, but I don’t think it’s helpful. Oye! ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  5. HIiSally – a great article. My cholesterol levels are good and I definitely don’t take statins, but it seems crazy and shocking the way they have taken over the world. Thanks for these fantastic insights. Toni x

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post, Sally:) I’m with you on eating heathly and getting the right supplements. Statins have been pushed more than once to my husband. But after some diet changes and some good oils hes fine. We both have that great blood pressure and don’t need any prescriptions:) Although its hard to give up some comfort foods its worth it. I use food to keep my health issues from getting out.of hand:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fantastic Denise and with you all the way.. as we approach 70 there seems to an increased desire to get us on the pills and neither of us are in the least bit inclined. I had to have my BP checked when registering at the surgery and it was normal…when asked what medication I was on! I replied that as a nutritional therapist for over 20 years I would be very disappointed to be on any! I am afraid like your and your husband we are not enriching big pharma.. just the local farmer..xx

      Liked by 1 person

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  9. Excellent post about cholesterol and statins. John and I both take statins for many years now. We are doing well, thank God, with no side effects that we are aware of. We eat well, exercise and listen to our doctor, or at least I listen to the doctor. He, on the other hand, listens sometimes to me.
    Thank you for this helpful info. God bless you with good health. 🤗 ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    • Doctors are under pressure from all sides.. time.. what can you accomplish in ten minutes.. You can’t change someone’s eating habits in a lifetime, so you give them a pill. Some will say they have to eat better, but the ‘official’ stance on carbohydrates and fats is still behind the times. And people themselves walk in having heard of the magical pill.. and demand it because they want a quick fix. There are people who genuinely need to have statins because of a genetic blip but unfortunately for the pharma companies not enough to make them a fortune.. I know that I am a cynic but I am appalled by the numbers of people who are being prescribed drugs unnecessarily…xx

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