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30 January 2008

What's Cholesterol Got to Do With It?

This article in the New York Times reflects the rapid disintegration of the medical orthodoxy that states cholesterol is a key cause of heart disease. In the wake of drug trials that show the drug Vytorin lowers cholesterol levels but not heart risks, an increasing number of doctors are examining the evidence and finding it lacking.

The very language used to discuss heart disease confuses the cholesterol carried in the bloodstream with the particles, known as lipoproteins, that actually carry it. Some of these lipoproteins may pose dangers, but whether or not the cholesterol itself does is much more questionable.

In fact, studies have shown that total cholesterol levels are not a risk factor for coronary heart disease at all, and the cholesterol in low-density lipoproteins is a “marginal risk factor”. A large percentage of people who suffer heart attacks have low levels of low-density lipoproteins.

The main reason cholesterol is assumed to be bad actually comes from circular logic: saturated fat was assumed to be bad because it raises LDL cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol was assumed to be bad because it is the thing that saturated fat raises. But researchers have been unable to generate compelling evidence that saturated fat in the diet causes heart disease.


* New York Times January 27, 2008

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