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Posted April 28, 2014: by Bill Sardi
This is a topic I have written about before, but newly published science calls for it to be revisited.
The misdirection started in the 1960s with Ancel Keys’ mistaken claim that saturated fat rather than refined sugar spawns heart disease. Fat phobia reigned and many brands of health foods bragged they were entirely fat free. It took till 2010 for studies to reveal there is no significant evidence to conclude that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease. Bottom line, fat-phobia was indelibly inculcated into the public psyche.
In 1960 even Ancel Keys (mistakenly) maintained that saturated fat and not cholesterol was responsible for heart disease, a position he maintained till his retirement. But a decade later the cholesterol caper was about to begin. Circulating blood fats were responsible for the plaque that causes blood clots in coronary arteries, so said the pharmaceutical industry.
Given that fat soluble nutrients such as vitamins A,D,E and K and the family of carotenoids (lutein, lycopene, beta carotene) are transported on circulating blood fats (lipoproteins, aka cholesterol), this suggests low levels of cholesterol deliver fewer antioxidants to tissues. Declining cholesterol is associated with higher mortality rates due to cancer. This impetus to drive cholesterol levels lower and lower was sure to have adverse consequences.
The first drug (Mevacor/ lovastatin) that lowered circulating blood fats (cholesterol) was marketed in 1987 and the truth had to be stretched by combining fatal and nonfatal heart attack and angina (chest pain) to make Mevacor appear to be modestly successful.
Despite an insignificant reduction in coronary artery disease mortality the FDA allowed pharmaceutical companies to continue to make false advertising claims for statins and to formulate even stronger drugs that interfered with the body’s own natural production of cholesterol in the liver. And those stronger statin drugs also failed to significantly reduce coronary artery disease mortality.
In healthy adults statins reduce the risk of a non-mortal heart attack by 1 in 200 users over a 5-year period, which eliminates their role as preventive medicine. Maybe 3-5 adults out of 1000 experience a heart attack over a 5-year period. Far too many healthy people have to take statins over a long period of time for one patient to avert a mortal or even non-mortal heart attack.
Among high-risk adults (those with risk factors such as high blood sugar and insulin resistance and high blood pressure) statins reduce the risk for a non-mortal heart attack in 1 in 70 users over a 5-year period. That is still a lot of pill popping to benefit just a single patient. And that is a lot of patients who will only experience a statin drug side effect (liver toxicity, diabetes, cataracts, mental confusion).
That arterial plaque is partly composed of cholesterol is an incontrovertible fact. That the cholesterol portion of arterial plaque is the cause of mortal heart attacks is a complete fabrication.
More so, the very idea that circulating cholesterol particles are a measure of the amount of stagnant accumulated arterial plaque is yet another falsehood. An estimated 3-20% of arterial plaque is cholesterol while ~50% is calcium.
The confusion emanates from the fact the so-called “bad LDL cholesterol” is only a marker of arterial calcification and is not a risk factor itself. And calcification is just now being recognized as the chief cause of heart attacks, not cholesterol.
An even more disturbing discovery is that statin drug use was actually found to increase coronary artery calcification among adult-onset diabetics.
A recent landmark study reveals common risk factors for heart disease such as cholesterol, diabetes and high-blood pressure are not predictive for a future heart attack but calcified coronary arteries are.
If arteries remain flexible rather than stiffened by calcium (a calcium arterial score of zero) the risk for a future heart attack is less than one-half of one percent.
This study buries the idea that cholesterol induces mortal heart attacks. But how does one undo cholesterol phobia prevalent in the minds of so many Americans? How do you halt sales of $30 billion of statin drugs without bringing down the entire pharmaceutical sector of the stock market?
What blood cholesterol tests gave health-minded people was a number, albeit a false one, they could use to gauge their heart health. It gave them (false) reassurance their heart was healthy. Statins became a perfect drug for doctors and pharmaceutical companies who would collect hundreds of billions in ill-gained profits. Cardiologists and pharmaceutical companies were financially rewarded for treating rather than curing or preventing heart disease.
Mortal heart attacks would still occur with frequency, which would drive more and more fearful patients to take statin drugs while doctors would have an increasing population of patients to treat.
The mortality rate for coronary artery disease has declined dramatically since the early 1990s when 240 of very 100,000 American adults died of a blockage in the arteries that supply the heart with oxygenated blood.
For comparison, the wine-drinking French whose cholesterol levels and consumption of fatty foods was higher had a coronary artery disease death rate of 90 per 100,000. Today the death rate for coronary artery disease in America is ~160 per 100,000.
Modern American medicine pulled off this cholesterol ruse in the face of Japan and France having higher circulating cholesterol levels but vastly lower mortality rates for coronary artery disease! And Americans bought the cholesterol-phobia sales pitch hook line and sinker.
Out of a population of 120 million American adults over age 40 who are at higher risk for heart disease, to claim that 30 million of them taking ineffective statin drugs has resulted in a decline in coronary artery disease mortality is difficult to swallow. Other factors such as increased wine consumption and use of dietary supplements are more likely reasons for reduced coronary artery disease mortality.
Recognize that parts of America exhibit very, very low rates of cardiac death, 77.5 deaths per 100,000 population (Utah) and other areas more than two times that risk — 193.5 per 100,000 (District of Columbia). There is no evidence that Utahans use statin drugs any more than other Americans.
The objective of Healthy People 2010 was to reduce death rates to 162 deaths per 100,000 population for coronary heart disease. The new objective is to bring down that death rate to 126 per 100,000 by 2020.
That males exhibit a much higher coronary artery disease mortality rate than females (176.5 for males, 103.1 for females per 100,000) is not explained by cholesterol and is more likely explained by males having higher iron levels than females. Investigators have recently shown that the marginal reduction in cardiac health achieved by statin drugs may be accomplished by their ability to reduce stored iron (ferritin) not by its ability to reduce cholesterol levels.
A double misdirection by allopathic medicine was to place so many patients on vitamin K blockers to thin the blood (Warfarin, Coumadin), a medical practice that fosters arterial calcification. The case of a man 10-years on Warfarin with massive calcification of coronary and other arteries has now been reported.
Health food stores, naturopaths, chiropractors, and all manner of alternative health care providers began to tout their “more natural” cholesterol lowering remedies because it was good for business. It was mindless medicine on both sides of the fence. The publicity for cholesterol phobia and statin drugs was being churned out by Big Pharma from major news outlets. Alternative practitioners wanted a piece of the pie.
Red yeast rice (which provides the same liver-toxic molecules as statin drugs) and phytosterols were posed by natural medicine advocates as substitutes for statin and fibrate drugs that reduce the synthesis and dietary absorption of cholesterol respectively.
Garlic initially produced promising results in regard to cholesterol reduction but a change in the manufacturing process of enteric coated garlic tablets resulted in a disappearance of the effect, likely due to the inability of these pills to buffer stomach acid that degrades the enzyme (alliinase) that produces allicin, garlic’s primary active ingredient.
Over three decades ago the combination of vitamin C with apple pectin was demonstrated to reduce circulating cholesterol levels in human subjects nearly equivalent to that of some statin drugs, but this approach has been inexplicably ignored by both conventional and alternative medicine. Apple pectin and vitamin C remove cholesterol by improving bile flow.
While it is clear that conventional allopathic medicine does not hold the high scientific ground when it comes to coronary heart disease, alternative medicine offered up its variety of anti-cholesterol remedies that lowered a mistaken marker of heart disease under the false assumption lives would be saved. The old saying “the blind leading the blind” applies here.
Alternative medicine chose to shadow conventional medicine in the chase for patients. It failed to examine the science. Alternative health practitioners were as content in attracting more patients with natural cholesterol-lowering remedies as the misdirected medical doctors were in arrogantly touting FDA-approved statin drugs.
X-ray imagery showing calcific stiffening of coronary arteries was first shown in 1951.
Beginning in the 1990s there was adequate evidence that calcification and calcium-rich dairy products were responsible for arterial stiffening that leads to mortal heart disease.
The assertion that calcification was the leading cause of heart disease was led by British cardiologist Stephen Seely. Dr. Seely hypothesized cow’s milk was responsible for coronary heart disease and that there is no age-related increase in blood pressure in countries where calcium consumption is low.
Subsequent studies on milk consumption and heart disease were poorly designed and only led to further misdirection. An analysis of ten different studies did not reveal that calcium-rich milk was associated with heart disease, but most of these studies involved younger women of child-bearing age who are donating their calcium to their offspring and are naturally protected from calcification of their coronary arteries.
All this misdirection and premature loss of life continued in the backdrop of non-existent pharmaceutical anti-calcifying agents and abundant natural anti-calcifying agents. These include magnesium, vitamin D3 (within the blood concentration range of ~75-85.5 nanomole/liter of blood and particularly when magnesium status is adequate), vitamin K2 (with evidence for lower cardiovascular mortality), L-lysine, IP6 rice bran extract, garlic and vitamin C (addresses unstable arterial plaque that induces sudden death heart attacks).
In fact, it was recently reported that for every 50-milligram incremental increase in magnesium intake there is a 22% reduction in calcified coronary arteries.
In a study conducted in Japan supplemental vitamin D was found to reduce the death from cardiovascular disease by 70% compared to non-vitamin D supplement users.
That means there is evidence that natural anti-calcifying agents like vitamin D, vitamin K and magnesium don’t just reduce risk for non-mortal heart attacks like statin drugs but lower the risk for mortal heart attacks.
Another newly recognized anti-calcifying agent is the red wine molecule resveratrol. The effect is indirect.
Only recently has it been recognized that high phosphate diets, in particular phosphate from soda pop, may induce calcification by adversely altering vitamin D levels. In fact, some investigators are calling phosphate “the new cholesterol.”
Remarkably, resveratrol has been found to inhibit hyperphosphatemia-induced arterial calcification. Intravenous vitamin C has also been demonstrated to decrease phosphorus levels in humans.
Natural anti-calcification agents are much more promising, can be effectively and safely used for prevention among healthy adults and are certainly more economical. One published report claims vitamins D and K lower arterial calcification while statin drugs are “largely powerless against calcification.” But the science is meaningless. Medical doctors are currently in the business of treating every human malady as if it were a drug deficiency and running up the bill in the process. ©2014 Bill Sardi, Knowledge of Health, Inc.
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