Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Low Cholesterol Leads to an Early Death - Evans/Naughton

Back in April I reviewed and recommended Cholesterol and Saturated Fat Prevent Heart Disease – Evidence from 101 Scientific Papers, a book by David Evans, who somehow manages to maintain and constantly update a huge collection of study abstracts and synopses on his Healthy Diets and Science website.

After I posted that review, David asked me if I’d write the foreword for his next book, another collection of 101 studies which suggest that low cholesterol – despite everything we’ve been told – isn’t good for us. I agreed, wrote the forward, then forgot about it until I received a copy of the new book this week. I was actually a bit surprised when I saw Foreword by Tom Naughton in the table of contents. Must be my advancing age.

Anyway, I like Low Cholesterol Leads to an Early Death — Evidence From 101 Scientific Papers for all the same reasons I like the previous one. It’s not a book you’ll sit down and read for pleasure, but it’s an excellent, easy-to-use reference to keep on your bookshelf. I frequently receive emails from readers asking me to point them to research they can wave in front of worried family or friends and say, “See? Saturated fat isn’t going to kill me, and no, I don’t need to take the @#$%ing statin the doctor is pushing on me!” (Or words that effect. ) If 101 studies won’t do the trick, nothing will.
As in the previous book, for each of the 101 studies there’s a title, a citation so you can look up the study yourself, and a brief summary with occasional commentary by Evans. Papers published in medical journals tend to have sleep-inducing titles along the lines of Low-density lipoprotein as a predictor of mortality in a cohort of elderly Scandinavian patients, so Evans provides more colorful titles that get to the point. You’ve got to love opening a book and seeing titles like these:

Heart attack survivors live longer if they have high cholesterol
Low cholesterol levels increase the risk of death from stroke, cancer and all causes
Low cholesterol levels predict death in patients with bacteria in the blood
Colon cancer deaths increase in men with low cholesterol

Many of these studies (and there are many of them) have been around for decades. I doubt most doctors have ever read the studies or even heard of them. If they had, I don’t see how they could possibly believe prescribing statins to beat down an elderly patient’s “high” cholesterol is a good idea. As Evans writes in the book’s introduction:

The “high cholesterol is bad for your health” myth has survived for five or six decades. The myth is why health-care practitioners, media advertisements and family and friends keep pressing home the message we should lower our cholesterol. The myth is why, despite mounting scientific evidence showing the opposite, we are still advised to lower our cholesterol. The myth is why we are told we should eat tasteless, manufactured low-fat products to lower our cholesterol. The myth is why millions of healthy people are subjected to statins drugs (and their many side effects) that will lower our cholesterol.

The myth survives largely because the millions of people buying cholesterol-lowering cereals and swallowing cholesterol-lowering drugs represent billions of dollars in revenues. We can’t change that. But we can arm ourselves with evidence and hope to convince a few loved ones that lowering our cholesterol isn’t necessary or even a good idea.

If you’re arming yourself, this book is a great addition to your arsenal.
Read the complete article here.

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