is Normal Cholesterol Not Normal?
Results from a study were recently released that showed that, although Vytorin did lower cholesterol, it did not reduce the clogging of your arteries which is the real risk factor for heart attack and stroke. Many people were shocked by this finding for it had long been thought that having normal cholesterol reduced ones risk of coronary artery disease, and now this major risk factor (clogged arteries) was found not to be helped by this drug. I was shocked too, but not by these findings; what startled me was that the study, which was done by the makers of Vytorin, was completed two years ago yet was only just now becoming public knowledge! As a result of these findings becoming public, Vytorin's manufacturer stopped advertising this product. No more will we see those cute comparisons of food and family... the "two sources of cholesterol". But since it is true that a normal cholesterol level is directly correlated with a lower risk of coronary artery disease and stroke, why do these findings seem to contradict this? It's because using a drug to create a "normal" cholesterol level is not the same as giving you a normal cholesterol level the natural way. Another way to put this is: just because there's a correlation between high cholesterol and heart disease doesn't mean there's a cause-and-effect relationship between high cholesterol and heart disease. Indeed there are some very healthy people (who eat no animal products or junk food at all) who have "high" cholesterol AND a very healthy cardiovascular system!
But let's do something that people with vested interests in drug sales don't do; let's look at the big picture and put things in perspective. There are not two, but three issues that have to do with cholesterol. Yes, your body does manufacture it, and yes that production relative to someone else can be affected by your heredity, but this issue is tiny when compared to the other issues. The makers of Vytorin are fond of mentioning, "You've heard it said: cholesterol comes from food. What you may not have heard is that your cholesterol also has a lot to do with your family history." But since high cholesterol has a lot more to do with food than with genetics, this clever wording could be misleading.
The second part to this is diet. Humans are not designed to intake foods that contain cholesterol, so when we do, it's not too hard to understand that this practice can raise our cholesterol levels. And it is significantly reducing or eliminating this source of cholesterol that can have a truly positive impact on our health, and it does so not because you are lowering the cholesterol, but because you are lowering the foods that contain cholesterol. Yes, you can artificially lower your cholesterol level with a pill, but if you're still consuming cholesterol you're also consuming some other artery clogging substances that the cholesterol lowering meds don't address. (And the foods that raise your cholesterol levels also damage your health in other ways... ways that cholesterol lowering drugs can't address!) Is this fact lost on those who were shocked by that study's findings? Do they think that lowering cholesterol whether by a drug or by meaningful dietary modifications would yield the same results health-wise? If the makers of Vytorin, along with all those who were shocked by that study (like the FDA), are really this clueless, it just goes to show how much is not understood about truly effective healthful practices; practices that are more important the further away we as a society stray from our natural environment (the further away we stray, the more bad choices there are to make).
Another aspect of this subject revolves around one of cholesterol's jobs. The body uses cholesterol to repair damage to the inner walls of your arteries (the dreaded "plaque" we hear so much about). The more damage done, the more repair needed, and the more cholesterol used (and the more cholesterol produced). The good news is that not only is your cholesterol level lowered by eating healthier foods (foods that contain no cholesterol), less damage is done to your arteries (and your body in general) when you significantly improve your lifestyle practices, diet being one of them.
[It should also be noted that another job of cholesterol is to help make vitamin D from sun exposure, and since vitamin D is a crucial player in the prevention of cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's, etc., the last thing I'd want to do is to take a medication that may interfere with that process.]
So don't let anyone convince you that your genetics are just as significant a factor as your diet when it comes to your cholesterol level; the two are as different, effect-wise, as night and day. And don't let anyone persuade you into believing that lowering your cholesterol via artificial means (a pill) is no different than getting those same results through effective dietary modifications. The more fruits and green leafy vegetables you eat, and the less cholesterol-containing food you consume, the healthier you can be (in addition to heart health this includes lowered risks of cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, Alzheimer's, etc). Real health comes from healthful living, and not from a pill. And truly effective health information comes from unbiased knowledgeable sources, and not from clever TV advertising designed to maximize sales for the sake of profit.
P.S. Did you know that approximately 85% of people who have died from a fatal heart attack had normal cholesterol levels thanks in part to cholesterol lowering meds? Another fact that the makers of statin drugs don't want you to know about.