I was at a dinner party recently when the subject of cholesterol came up. Every (lay) person around the table turned out to be an expert: “Cholesterol is bad”, said one. “Well actually there’s good and bad cholesterol”, clarified another. “Our cholesterol shouldn’t be higher than five”, volunteered one sage. Five what? They had no idea. Why is cholesterol bad? Not a clue. If ever there were a substance vilified with the utmost ignorance – cholesterol is it.
This month, October, is national cholesterol month in the UK. September was national cholesterol month in the US. Call me cynical, but staggering the months gives one sixth of the year when the increasingly global on-line world is being manipulated to have cholesterol front of mind. Leading the charge in the UK appears to be Heart UK – an organisation masquerading as a charity, which more accurately should be seen as a voice piece of the cholesterol lowering industry. Here are Heart UK’s backers.
This is what we should be told in national cholesterol month and these are the things that my fellow diners should have been saying about cholesterol:
1) Cholesterol is utterly life vital
Every human being would die instantly without cholesterol. Every single cell in the human body depends upon it. We would have no digestion or hormone function without cholesterol. Cholesterol is critical for brain and memory functions – even though the brain is only 2% of the body’s weight, it contains approximately 25% of the body’s cholesterol (Ref 1). Cholesterol is essential for bones and all the roles performed by vitamin D. We could not reproduce without this life vital substance. Hence, not only would humans die without cholesterol, the human race would die out.
2) Cholesterol is so vital that our body makes it
It cannot be left to chance that we would need to get cholesterol from an external source, such as food. One of the key reasons that we need to spend approximately one third of our lives sleeping is to give the body time to produce cholesterol, repair cells and perform other essential maintenance.
3) There is no such thing as good and bad cholesterol
The formula for cholesterol is C27H46O. There is no good or bad version. Ignorant people call HDL ‘good’ cholesterol and LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol. Neither HDL nor LDL are even cholesterol – they are lipoproteins. HDL is High Density Lipoprotein and LDL is Low Density Lipoprotein. HDL is smaller than LDL and is therefore higher in density. Lipoproteins carry cholesterol, protein, phospholipids and triglyceride around the blood stream to undertake vital roles.
4) The cholesterol blood test is a guess
The standard blood test can only measure total cholesterol & HDL. So we have one equation, four unknowns, only two of which can be measured:
Total cholesterol = LDL + HDL + Triglycerides (VLDL)/5
Any GCSE maths student will tell you that this is insolvable.
Your best option is not to get your cholesterol ever tested and then you can never be a victim of the cholesterol lowering machinery that will kick in if your guestimate fails the following test…
5) There is no science behind the number “5”
Even after years of artificial intervention, the average cholesterol level in the UK is somewhere between 5.6 – 6.3 mmol/l (Ref 2) (216-244 mg/dl). The powers-that-be have decided that this should be 5mmol/l (193 mg/dl). This is like saying that the average height for a woman is 5’4” and we have decreed that it should be 5’1”. We could then stop the body from performing a natural function (growth) by administering drugs to stop growth hormones from doing their job. I trust that this analogy disturbs you. It is, however, frighteningly similar to what we are doing with attempts to lower average cholesterol levels.
6) “There’s no connection whatsoever between cholesterol in food and cholesterol in blood. And we’ve known that all along.” Ancel Keys
Dietary cholesterol is only found in animal foods – meat, fish, eggs and dairy. Ancel Keys spent the 1950s feeding humans high levels of animal foods to see if dietary cholesterol had any impact on blood cholesterol levels. He concluded unequivocally that it did not. He never deviated from this view. While exonerating cholesterol, Keys also exonerated animal foods at the same time – and any substance contained therein. If large intakes of animal foods have no impact on cholesterol levels, then neither animal foods per se or any component of these foods (water, protein, cholesterol, saturated or unsaturated fat) have any impact on cholesterol levels!
Unaware of this irrefutable logic, diet ‘experts’ will tell you that saturated fat raises LDL and unsaturated fat raises HDL. They won’t tell you how. I have yet to find a biochemist who can explain how this can happen – let alone that it does. As every food that contains fat contains all three fats (saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) you cannot consume any food that has saturated and not unsaturated fat, or vice versa.
Even if the very small 3 grams per 100 grams of unsaturated fat in sirloin steak (Ref 3) could raise HDL and even if the even smaller 2 grams per 100 grams of saturated fat in sirloin steak could raise LDL – where would this leave our insolvable equation?!
The US dietary guidelines are due to be re-issued this year. The draft report announced in February 2015 that “cholesterol is no longer a nutrient of concern” (Ref 4). It never was you Muppets!
7) Low cholesterol is associated with higher mortality. High cholesterol is associated with lower mortality
I have analysed cholesterol levels and death rates for all 192 countries for which the World Health Organisation has data. You may need to read this carefully. The lower the cholesterol levels, the higher the death rate; the higher the cholesterol levels, the lower the death rate. This holds for men and women and for heart disease deaths and total deaths from any cause – for all the countries in the world. Knowing how utterly vital cholesterol is to human life, this makes complete sense (Ref 5).
8) Follow the money
Why would humans put so much effort into stopping the body from doing something that it is designed to do – make cholesterol?
Statins are drugs that impair the body’s production of cholesterol. One statin alone, Lipitor, has been worth $125 billion to Pfizer since 1997 (Ref 6). This statin is the most lucrative drug in the world. It is not the only statin.
Thankfully statins don’t work perfectly. If they stopped the body producing cholesterol altogether they would have a 100% death rate.
An entire low-fat spread industry, worth billions, has emerged simply by adding plant sterols to margarines because the brainwashed public will buy anything with “cholesterol lowering” properties. These plant sterols compete in the human body with human cholesterol and the overall impact on heart health is serious (Ref 7). I trust my body to make the cholesterol it needs. I’m not going to replace this with a foreign compound.
Back to the dinner party: While my healthy heart sank at the nonsense being asserted by intelligent acquaintances, there was an upside to their naive acceptance of propaganda: When the cheese course arrived, there was plenty to be enjoyed by the enlightened!