|Diet Heart News, volume 1, number 8|
The UCLA Study: Elevated LDL Not Associated With Heart Attack Risk
Since the early 1950s, mainstream researchers have been seeking the cause of atherosclerosis and heart disease spearheaded early on by University of Minnesota professor and American Heart Association board member Ancel Keys. The result - the 50 year old Diet Heart or Cholesterol Hypothesis:
If you eat too much food containing cholesterol and/or saturated fat, the level of cholesterol in your blood will rise. The excess cholesterol will be deposited in artery walls, causing them to thicken and narrow. In time, this will block blood supply to the heart or brain causing a heart attack or stroke.
According to this still unproven but enduring hypothesis, high blood cholesterol is caused by an atherogenic diet high in cholesterol and saturated fat - found mainly in animal products such as red meat, whole milk, eggs, butter - and the tropical saturates coconut and palm. In this scenario, high blood cholesterol is the main cause of atherosclerosis and heart disease.
The medical and nutrition communities and various government agencies have been behind Diet Heart ever since. If animal fat and high blood cholesterol are the chief villains, then cholesterol-lowering diets and cholesterol-lowering drugs would appear to be wise choices. But 50 years later - after a lengthy test of time - the incidence of heart disease has not gone down as promised, and researchers like science writer Gary Taubes have uncovered a great deal of their evidence that is unsupportable, contradictory, and hopelessly wrong.
A look at the recent five year UCLA/AHA Study
The UCLA research team used an American Heart Association database that included 541 hospitals across the country. The database provided detailed information on 136,905 patients hospitalized for cardiovascular disease whose lipid levels upon hospital admission were documented.
The results after five years: 75 percent of patients hospitalized for a heart attack had LDL cholesterol below 130 mg/dl - in the so called safe range. Even more astounding, 50 percent of patients had LDL below 100 mg/dL - considered optimal. (21 percent of the patients were taking a statin cholesterol-lowering drug.)
Now don't you think that the UCLA researchers would have concluded that there was no association between elevated LDL and risk of heart attacks? After all, this was a five year study of heart attacks suffered by 136,905 patients in an American Heart Association database that included records from 541 hospitals.
Yes - this should have been the nail in the coffin for the Diet Heart or Cholesterol Hypothesis, but not according to study director Dr. Gregg C. Fanarow, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and Science, David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA, who concluded:
"Almost 75 percent of heart attack patients fell within recommended targets for LDL cholesterol, demonstrating that the current guidelines may not be low enough to cut heart attack risk... "
May not be low enough!
Low cholesterol is already associated with depression and death by accidents, cancer and violence. According to the American Heart Association's journal Circulation, 1992; 86:3, the all cause death rate increases when total cholesterol drops below 180. Isn't there sufficient evidence now to conclude that elevated LDL and total cholesterol are not the cause of heart attacks and that the cholesterol hypothesis should be discarded along with official low fat diets and cholesterol-lowering drugs?
Don't hold your breath! UK cardiologist Dr. Malcolm Kendrick:
"I have come to realize that there is, literally, no evidence that can dent the cholesterol hypothesis... The effect of this study on the cardiovascular research community was....as you would expect...nothing at all, a deafening silence..."
Dr. Fonarow disclosed that he has conducted research for GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer and serves as a consultant and has received honorarium from the following drug companies: Abbott, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Pfizer and Schering Plough.
Dr. H. Bryan Brewer, a physician-scientist at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, failed to disclose his ties to AstraZeneca. Brewer had previously written a glowing report in a medical journal about Crestorwithout disclosing that he is a paid consultant and had presided over a company-sponsored symposium."
He and the others forgot!
Earlier in 2004, the doctors in the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) who wrote the current cholesterol guidelines and, in effect, control cardiology, failed to disclose that six of the nine authors had direct financial ties to the makers of statin drugs, including: Pfizer's Lipitor, Bristol-Myers Squibb's Pravachol, Merck's Lovastatin, and AstraZeneca's Crestor.
The new more stringent cholesterol-lowering guidelines boosted statinsales from $15 billion in 2004 to over $23 billion in 2005. And now the UCLA study provides more proof that lowering cholesterol with drugs or diet will not reduce cardiovascular disease or the risk of heart attack.
But as Winston Churchill said: "Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened." [especially if there is money to be made].
Read the complete article here.