CholesterolConflicts of InterestHeart Disease

We die instantly without cholesterol so why do we try to stop the body making it?

On May 8th 2012, we woke up to the headline:”Shot in the arm for fight against heart attacks: The fortnightly jab that could unclog your arteries.”

The article opens by saying “A fortnightly jab that slashes levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol could dramatically reduce the death toll from heart attacks and strokes. The injection has been shown to wipe out nearly three-quarters of the body’s low-density-lipoprotein (LDL) – the harmful form of cholesterol that leads to clogged arteries and heart disease.”

This requires correction before moving on:

1) Cholesterol is 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.

The journalist (Pat Hagan) actually gets it close to right a couple of paragraphs later with the comment: “(cholesterol) is transported in the blood by tiny ‘courriers’ called lipoproteins”.

2) LDL, the low density lipoprotein, does not lead to clogged arteries and heart disease. There are five lipoproteins formed in the body. In order of size, these are: chylomicrons (would ideally be called extremely low density lipoprotein to make more sense); VLDL (very low density lipoprotein); IDL (intermediate density lipoprotein); LDL (low density lipoprotein) and HDL (high density lipoprotein). All five lipoproteins carry triglyceride, protein, phospholipids and cholesterol – just in differing proportions. The density references relate to the size of each lipoprotein – the smaller the lipoprotein (HDL is the smallest), the higher the density.

All lipoproteins play utterly life vital roles transporting triglyceride, protein, phospholipids and cholesterol around the body to do vital repair work. Why pick on one of four substances (cholesterol) carried by one of five lipoproteins (LDL) and claim that the body has made this to kill us? It is literally absurd.


While acknowledging that cholesterol is made by the body (not just by the liver, as the article states) and “is essential to help the body produce hormones, absorb vitamin D and make bile to digest foods” – the article considers an injection that can “wipe out nearly three-quarters” of the LDL that the body makes for critical reason to be the latest marvel of pharmacology.

The article continues “However, one of these lipoproteins, called low-density-lipoprotein (LDL), is labelled ‘bad’ as it carries cholesterol away from the liver and dumps it in major blood vessels, where it can cause a life-threatening blockage.”

Wrong! Apply some not-so-common sense for one second – why on earth would the body do this?! LDL transports triglyceride, protein, phospholipids and cholesterol from the liver because every cell in the body needs them – not because our body has a design fault and is making something intended to clog arteries and kill us. LDL should more accurately be called “the carrier of fresh cholesterol”.

Surely if any substance could actually block blood vessels, the ones that would block first would be the narrowest – the veins. And yet veins never clog. If a juggernaut were travelling on the road network – the motorways (arteries) would still run freely – the single lane and country roads (veins and capillaries) would be ground to a halt (blocked).

What actually happens with heart disease is that the arterial wall (called the endothelial wall) is damaged by something (chief suspects being smoking, sugar, oxidants, stress – modern ‘enemies’ will explain this modern illness). The body builds a protective layer over the damage and tries to heal the area. The protective layer is needed because, unlike outside the body where a scab forms and heals and then breaks away, we cannot afford to have a scab break away in a blood vessel (as it could block a blood vessel!)

Here’s the ultimate irony – the body’s repair substances are triglyceride, protein, phospholipids and cholesterol – yes those things carried in the lipoproteins! As the carrier of fresh cholesterol, LDL is dispatched to the scene of the damage – the arterial wall – to do its vital repair work. It’s rather like police being sent to the scene of the crime and then being accused of committing the crime!

Every reduction in lipoproteins we can artificially impose on the body is another reduction in the tool kit that the body has to repair damage. Our demonisation of lipoproteins/cholesterol, because we don’t even know one from the other, is literally killing us.


Back to the article: In the next paragraph we have the statement: “High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is known as ‘good’ as this compound has the job of transporting cholesterol back to the liver to be safely disposed of.”

Wrong! HDL carries the exact same substances – different proportions (higher density remember) – and is returning these vital lipids back to the liver – not for disposal, but for recycling. The body values cholesterol so highly that it lets none of it go to waste.

Conflicts of interest

Those who know me will know that I am a passionate researcher into conflicts of interest. Sure enough this article is no different. Professor Keith Fox comments on the research as follows: “Although statins work for the vast majority of people, there are some for whom cholesterol remains high. If this new treatment can help these people, that is a potentially exciting development, but it’s still very early days.”

The drug companies involved in this lethal injection are Sanofi and Regeneron. Professor Fox is an advisor for/has received funding from Sanofi.

The Daily Express quoted James McKenney in their version of the same story: “If this pans out, it will be a whole new approach to lowering cholesterol,” James McKenney, chief executive officer of National Clinical Research Inc., said during a Monday press briefing at the American College of Cardiology annual meeting in Chicago, where the research was to be presented. The study was funded by the drug’s manufacturers: Sanofi U.S. and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. The research company that McKenney works for has received funding from both drug makers.

The most important thing that every human being needs to know about cholesterol is that it is as life vital as oxygen. We die instantly without it. How we can view being able to “wipe out” three quarters of a lipoprotein made by the body to transport this vital substance to every single cell as progress beggars belief.

If we ‘progress’ much more we will soon be able to kill every human that we ‘treat.’

24 thoughts on “We die instantly without cholesterol so why do we try to stop the body making it?

  • Hi Zoe. Have given up statins and now feel much ‘sharper’ Do you
    recommend taking Q10 and if so what strength? I am 76. Barbara

    • Hi Barbara – I can’t believe that doctors are letting anyone over 70 near a statin. Even the drug companies issue a caution – example download here and that’s probably the closest they get to saying “don’t take these if…!”

      Well done you for looking after yourself – and I’m delighted that you’re seeing an improvement already. It can’t harm to take CoQ10 – it’s called the body’s energy spark plug and statins operate above this natural pathway of the body so you have been impairing the production of CoQ10 by taking statins (not your fault!) Stopping the statins will enable the body to do what it is designed to do properly again – and that includes making CoQ10. This alone will help, but I am not aware of any harm in taking a supplement of this. Many people take it for the energy lift that it promises – how much of this it delivers I have no idea!

      Can’t help you on the dose I’m afraid – I’m not a supplement taker or advisor. I’ve had a quick surf and they seem to come in 30mg, 60mg, 100mg etc doses. I’d pop in to a good health food store (Holland & Barrett kind of place or a lovingly managed independent will be even better) and ask for their advice and/or try a low dose and see if you feel any difference.

      Then you’ll have the energy to shoot your doctor! ;-)
      Very best wishes – Zoe

  • Hi Zoe, I have been following your diet for about two years now and think it’s brilliant. Both my grown-up children now eat in this fantastically healthy way. Thank you. Re STATINS. I have a cholesterol total of 7.2mmol/L with LDL of 4.64. Recently there were minute bits of ‘cholesterol streakiness’ or ‘minor plaqueing’ in my carotid arteries and as result I’m now taking a daily 20mg dose of Simvastatin. When I was on this before my levels reduced to 4.6. What to do??

    • Hi Amanda – many thanks for your kind words about the diet. I know what I’d do – which is to never put a statin in my body in any circumstance! The youtube link shared by John (here again: may be enlightening. The book of the same name of the youtube interview is also amazing.

      Check out some other comments on another of my cholesterol blogs:

      Everyone needs to make up their own mind but none of us should take these drugs a) simply because a doctor tells us to and/or b) without knowing exactly what they do when inside a human body.

      7.2, by the way, used to be around the absolutely average for the population. We decreed that the magic number should be 5 and this immediately makes you ‘abnormal’ according to the new ‘rules’ that we made up. I liken this in my obesity book as follows:

      What if we concluded that height were a cause of CHD (and all causes of death) and that we should therefore redefine the average height to declare the actual average of 69.7 inches (for all American men) to be abnormal. What if we picked an arbitrary new target 10% lower than the actual average (5.0mmol/L is approximately 10% below the actual cholesterol norm of 5.5mmol/L) and decreed that normal height should be approximately 63 inches. We could then stop the body from performing a normal bodily function (growth) by administering drugs to stop growth hormones from doing their job. I trust that this analogy disturbs you. The Chinese practice of foot binding – an artificial intervention in the normal development of the human body, to achieve an artificial ‘norm’ – was thankfully outlawed in the early twentieth century, but trying to reduce the normal cholesterol level continues.

      Very best wishes – Zoe


    How Statin Drugs REALLY Lower Cholesterol (And Kill You One Cell at a Time)

    its 104 min long and is on you tube
    If you want – buy the book with the same name

    • Hi John – thanks so much for sharing this. I’ve just finished the book and have bought several for friends. I didn’t realise it’s on youtube – thanks again!
      Very best wishes – Zoe

  • What actually happens with heart disease is that the arterial wall (called the endothelial wall) is damaged by something (chief suspects being smoking, sugar, oxidants, stress – modern ‘enemies’ will explain this modern illness). The body builds a protective layer over the damage and tries to heal the area. The protective layer is needed because, unlike outside the body where a scab forms and heals and then breaks away, we cannot afford to have a scab break away in a blood vessel (as it could block a blood vessel!)
    Linus Pauling et al. postulated 50 years ago that this is actually what is happening. The problem is lack of Vitamin C. They say in “A Unified Theory of Human Cardiovascular Disease”:
    “After the loss of endogenous ascorbate production, apo(a) and Lp(a) were greatly favored by evolution, acting as ascorbate surrogate, since the frequency of occurrence of elevated Lp(a) plasma levels in species that had lost the ability to synthesize ascorbate is great”

    Pauling therapy deals with this by providing enough vitamin C (~10g give or take) and Lysine:
    If Lp(a) causes heart disease, and Lp(a) attaches at the lysine binding sites, then the solution is simple. “I think I know what the answer is… we can get almost complete control of cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and strokes by the proper use of this therapy… even cure it.” – Linus Pauling (Linus Pauling Video on Heart Diseaes, 1992)

    So, cholesterol is there to fix something in the absence of most potent fixing molecule, vitamin C. Providing vitamin C will reduce cholesterol naturally (if low carb diet is followed as high sugar diet prevents C uptake on multiple levels).

  • From what you’ve written, it seems like high cholesterol is just too much of a good thing, which is a very interesting take on something we’ve all grown to fear. Just like how high amounts of iron can poison you by doing its job in excess, too much cholesterol can poison you too, by “overhealing” your torn arteries. Maybe too much HDL is good for certain people, but not for those with artery problems, just like general antiobiotics being bad for people with stomach problems. And as a current biology student, it’s so nice to finally see someone NOT calling HDL and LDL cholesterol– that and the 3,500 rule really gets to me!

  • Hi: While cholesterol may play a role in heart disease… haven’t recent studies pointed to a lack of vitamin K2 in causing calcium build up and artery hardening? It is my suspicion there are two things a play (1) calcium building up over a life time and getting suck in with the cholesterol, (2) inflammation which cases the damage / hardening. Remove any of the three things: cholesterol, inflammation, or calcium and you have healthy arteries. Thus stains having some effectiveness – because they can reduce cholesterol and inflammation. But the thing that you want to ensure is that the calcium doesn’t build up and is put properly in your bones. Which K2 and Vitamin D help ensure. As far as I know K2 is very hard to get in regular American food but very plentiful in other cultures — France and Japan (natto). I think that would also make sense from an oseteo arthritis point of view as people may have calcium deposits all over their joints / soft tissue.

  • Hi Zoe

    Have you seen this? William Li has been doing research about cancer and Angiogenesis and I think answers some of the confusion above about how statins work in the body controlling the balance of blood in the body. It is fascinating research, and although may not appear relevant to a diet website, get to the end of the slide show and all is revealed!
    Can we eat to STARVE CANCER? William Li – Talk, Lecture, Documentary – (Health Food)

    • Hi Jayne – many thanks for the link. I watched it all and found it very interesting. A couple of things I had a problem with – soy being good for anything being one! The Harvard study and tomatoes has the usual bad science of association not causation and relative, not absolute risk. The veg promotion needs to take into account the 5.6 billion pounds of pesticides on these foods. The obesity bit was really interesting and the guy is a great presenter!
      The statins methodology is more likely that they kill cells. They will kill unhealthy cells as well as healthy cells therefore. See “How statin drugs really lower cholesterol and kill you one cell at a time” by Yoseph & Yoseph
      Thanks so much for the lead though – really interesting
      Very best wishes – Zoe

  • Thanks for posting this, I don’t tend to read the Daily Mail for obvious reasons. This is very scary and comes across as a murder weapon to me. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are many casualties caused by this injection. Have you checked out Chris Masterjohn’s blog The Daily Lipid? He has some great (but very scientific) information on cholesterol and how important it is for the body.

    • Hi Jo – I do follow Chris’s work – he writes a lot for the Weston Price Foundation – his work is great! There are many of us (not conflicted) speaking out and it’s great to see it reaching people :-)
      Very best wishes – Zoe

  • Actually you *can* get a clot in a vein–it’s called a venous thrombosis. The main difference between clots in veins and clots in arteries seems to be that doctors understand you have to have inflammation and damage in a vein before it will form a thrombosis. I live for the day when they figure that out about arteries too.

    OK, and another big difference is that arteries clog *more often* than veins. Probably because there is more movement in arteries (for those who don’t know, arteries can beat just like a heart, and that’s why you have a pulse in your extremities), therefore more potential for injury.

  • Hoping you could clear up some confusion on my end.

    In the above article you mention that the density relates to the particle size. In Gary Taubes’ book I believe he says that the density refers to the contents of the particle and not the particle size itself. He states that low density refers to the amount of trygliceride being carried by the particle relative to the amount of cholesterol the particle carries. He explains that the trygliceride is less dense then cholersterol. Further, I thought he mentioned that VLDL are small dense particles carrying more tryglicerides.

    Can you help clarify regarding the density? Is it about the particle size or the contents the particle carries?


    • Hi Gerry – there may not be a conflict here. The particles are of different size and the smallest has the highest density (which is logical). However, they all carry the same substances – just in different proportions, so describing something as dense because it’s small or dense because of what’s in it (what’s in the area available to it) is much the same thing?

      Here’s an extract from my book The Obesity Epidemic: What caused it? How can we stop it? about the size and what’s in them. Hope this helps!

      There are many different sized lipoproteins. The largest lipoproteins are called chylomicrons. It would be logical for them to be called extremely low density lipoproteins (ELDL’s), but they aren’t. The next largest are very low density lipoproteins (VLDL’s), which are often called triglycerides, also somewhat unhelpfully. There is a lipoprotein called intermediate density lipoprotein (IDL), which is rarely talked about. However, given the obsession with positioning cholesterol as ‘deadlier than Hannibal Lecter’, it can only be a matter of time before this also features in medical journals. Then we have the much more widely known low density lipoprotein (LDL), erroneously known as ‘bad’ cholesterol and high density lipoprotein (HDL), equally erroneously known as ’good’ cholesterol.

      If one chylomicron lipoprotein were the size of a football, then one VLDL would be about the size of a large orange, one IDL would be about the size of an apricot, one LDL about the size of a plum and one HDL about the size of a small grape. You can see where the notion of density comes from – the smaller the lipoprotein, the more dense/tightly packed the contents and hence the smallest lipoprotein (HDL) is high density and the largest lipoprotein (chylomicron) is the one that should, logically, be called extremely low density lipoprotein.

      Since I am hoping that this book can lead to heated agreement, before we move on from LDL, please note the following:
      – The means by which dietary fat (and cholesterol) are transported into the blood stream, to play their vital roles in reaching and nourishing all our bodily cells, was first established by Michael Brown and Joseph Goldstein in the 1980’s and was recognised in them being awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1985). Their work informs us that chylomicrons are formed in the intestine, as a result of digestion, and chylomicrons are the transport mechanism for taking dietary fat (and cholesterol) from the digestive system into the blood stream and from there to the different parts of the body. Dietary fat is not turned into LDL – certainly not directly and many would argue not at all.
      – VLDL’s, also called triglycerides, are made by the liver and these lipoproteins leave the liver with a composition of approximately 50% triglyceride, 22% cholesterol, 18% phospholipids and 10% protein. As the VLDL’s encounter lipoprotein lipase (LPL), they are hydrolysed (broken down) and glycerol and fatty acids are released. The VLDL’s become intermediate density lipoproteins (IDL’s) with a composition of approximately 31% triglyceride, 29% cholesterol, 22% phospholipids and 18% protein. These are hydrolysed further by hepatic lipase to become low density lipoproteins (LDL’s) – with a composition of approximately 8% triglyceride, 45% cholesterol, 22% phospholipids and 25% protein. The liver doesn’t make LDL. LDL is a residue of IDL, which is a residue of VLDL.

  • All studies and battles of intellectual ego aside.

    I was discussing this on the bodybuilding website I help run, when a member chimed in with a very telling comment:

    “I am in the Life assurance business. Every client that I submit for life cover who takes a statin drug is turned down. So, the life companies are aware of the implications from the side effect as they will not take on the risk. Pharma leading the way of profits over health.”

    Says it all really.

    Big fan of Kendricks writings here, hardly cherry picking, quoting raw study data lol

  • Perhaps the reason people with high risk of CVD have high cholesterol, is because the body is in such dire need of repair. High Cholesterol should be a sign that the body is damaged and it is trying to repair itself. Removing the repair mechanism isn’t going to fix the damage that caused the response in the first place!

  • I’ve read Dr. Kendrick’s book and got the impression that his cherry-picking was comparable to that of his detractors. The pleiotropic effects of statins are getting some attention lately, but nothing definitive has emerged. Such effects might be more than just anti-inflammatory, but the biochemistry is beyond this 71-year-old brain. With a history of heart disease in the family and very few other causes of mortality, I’ve compromised with my doc by taking a half normal dose of a statin.

    I strongly suspect your view will ultimately prove to be the correct one, but as you can infer, I’ve chosen to hedge my bet for now. Also, please note that I fully concur that the idea of chloresterol gumming up your arteries is ludicrous, but it may still have a role as a biomarker (effect, not cause).

    • Hi again
      Even the patient leaflet for Lipitor advises “Take special care if you are older than 70 years” (p2). Probably because the brain contains approximately 25% of the body’s cholesterol and this is needed for the brain to function! Your brain functioning would highly likely be even better if a foreign substance in your body were not trying to alter this biochemical state! I will never let a statin pass my lips – I trust my body to do what it’s designed to do more than any drug manufacturer that can make $125 billion from one version of one statin alone (Lipitor).

      I’ve had the joy of hearing Malcolm speak a couple of times (side splitting laughter kind of joy!) and I made a note of one of the things he said: “Association cannot prove causation but lack of association can disprove causation.” Malcolm is not the one who asserted that cholesterol is bad and statins shall save the world. All he needs to do is to show that the argument presented by those who do believe this does not stand up to scrutiny. One black swan (lack of association) can disprove causation. He (and many, many others) have found so many black swans that we can’t see any white ones any more!

      We should all make our own call – I know what mine will be!
      Ciao – Zoe

  • Well done Zoe. Are you preparing a comment/demolition of the recent statin for all over 50 press coverage?

  • I’m no fan of the lipid hypothesis, but I would really like to know why statins do actually reduce CVD deaths (but not necessarily death from all causes). I’ve read theories, but haven’t found any hard proofs. Can you help me with an explanation that I can take to my doc?

    • Hi ProudDaddy – check out Dr Malcolm Kendrick’s The Great Cholesterol Con. He goes through all the studies and shows that the benefit of statins is a) limited to men over 50 who have already had a heart attack and b) tiny. The jury is out as to how even this small benefit in a very small group is achieved (barely a percent of the population vs the masses taking statins). The smart money is on statins having anti-inflammatory properties and I think this makes sense.

      You may have noticed over the past couple of years that statin drug companies have been increasingly talking about the role of statins with arthritis? This is an inflammatory condition. I don’t think that it will be long before we confirm that statins have anti-inflammatory properties and that the cholesterol lowering has been a serious and dangerous side effect. We will then need to develop anti-inflammatory options, which don’t destroy the body’s production of a life vital substance. Hang on a minute – that sounds like aspirin!
      Hope this helps
      Best wishes – Zoe

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