Is conventional wisdom on cholesterol about to be turned upside down?

New research has found no link between high levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol and mortality, challenging the prevailing wisdom of the past few decades.

One author has claimed, too, that taking statins is a waste of time for those aged over 60 — though the research, published in the journal BMJ Open, did not look at the effectiveness of statins.

A team of scientists reviewed 19 previous studies involving 68,000 people. They did not find a link between high levels of LDL cholesterol (or ‘bad’ cholesterol) and higher mortality rates — in some of the studies the opposite was the case.

The researchers found that those with higher levels of LDL cholesterol actually lived longer. They suggested that the ‘bad’ cholesterol that statins are supposed to combat could play a role in preventing disease and infections.

The authors said: ‘Our review calls for a re-evaluation of the guidelines for cardiovascular prevention, in particular because the benefits from statin treatment have been exaggerated.’

One of the study’s authors, Dr Aseem Malhotra, said: ‘The scientific evidence clearly reveals that we must stop fear-mongering when it comes to cholesterol and heart disease and focus instead on insulin resistance, the most important risk factor as a precursor to many chronic diseases.’

Professor Sherif Sultan, another co-author on the study, said: ‘Lowering cholesterol with medications for primary cardiovascular prevention in those aged over 60 is a waste of time and resources.’

Instant analysis
The study design was a systematic review, where similar studies are looked at within a specific framework in order to answer a particular clinical question. Statistical relationships are not established in the way they would be in a meta-analysis (the next step) and hence ‘overall’ results can only be discussed in general terms.

Nineteen prospective cohort studies were selected with a total of 68,000 patients. Researchers looked at the relationship between blood levels of LDL-C, so-called ‘bad cholesterol’, and death, whether from cardiovascular disease or other causes.

Fourteen of the studies found that lower LDL-C levels were associated with higher rates of death; the rest found no association between death rates and LDL-C levels.

This paper is a potential game changer. It calls into question the traditional hypothesis that elevated LDL-C increases the risk of cardiovascular death that has been demonstrated in multiple other studies, and, at a simplistic level, whether or not the older population should even be on statins. I say potential, as the data needs to be collated and analysed statistically so that it can be compared directly to previous data.

Take-home message: there is a current revolution within medicine regarding the traditional saturated fat/cholesterol hypothesis and the public should not be surprised at the claims and counter-claims in the press from various experts. Best to wait for the dust to settle.
Research score: 4/5

  • Yousif

    Whose advice to follow? a lot of us are disoriented.

    • Better to be unsure and thus willing and curious to learn, than give power away to supposed authorities who are perhaps not holding your interests at heart, nor transparent in their actions or accountable for their consequences?
      The whole natural things is bad for you is a cover for the actuality that unnatural ‘food’ is making you sick and stupid – not personally – but as a general degrading of consciousness in which we can no longer ‘think for ourselves’ if we wanted to. I actually use feeling to discern the nature of thought – because spin-doctors always use fear and guilt to leverage outcomes. But the catch 22 is that if you are blind to your own spin, you wont be able to feel anything – because the emotionality of being deceived is not a freedom to feel.
      Calming and aligning your being by whatever means works for you will allow the pause of false thinking and the rise of a truly felt perspective. This is living a step at a time and listening as you go rather than finally getting control of your life. It is actually safer than the illusion of safety – because you are in touch with what is going on rather than relying on old and often wrong thinking that does not stop to ask because it believes it already knows.

      • SpinResistant

        You are entitled to your views, but I’m afraid they sound like incoherent bunkum to me. The trouble with studies like the one reported here is that loony-fringe individuals such as yourself latch onto them and cause unjustified concern in usually sensible people. If I thought you would be able to understand it, I would suggest you go away and look at the medical literature on statins and cholesterol reduction. But you have said enough already to make me completely onfident that you wouldn’t be able to make head or tail of it and you don’t know what you are talking about.

        • But of course I must appear so to you – given your presumptions.
          There is a directed history to uncover regarding saturated fats, cholesterol and bad science – unless you are unwilling and unable to challenge embedded or accepted beliefs.
          The body makes cholesterol because it NEEDS it. The brain accounts for about 25% of your body’s cholesterol and starving it will and does have consequences.
          Calling me a looney fringe individual is a very poor attempt to assume superiority. If you can respond with civility that honours communication then I am confident you can expand your perspective on this subject.
          I don’t argue with your experience. If statins have helped you – then I am glad for you.

  • SpinResistant

    Almost anything is a “potential” gamechanger.

    Mostof the author’s appear to be career-antistatinists and the studies reviewed seem to have ben cherry-picked within an inch of their lives.

    Why didn’t they do a meta-analysis its easy enough, once you’ve got the datasets

    • Stephanie Seneff has done very interesting research – and is very much in touch with and able to make sense of a huge range of data.
      I don’t know what a career antistatinist is? Someone who risks their career to warn of gullible trust in institutional corruption?
      Without Chloresterol your life-experience is degraded and diminished. Perhaps this is preferable to awakening responsibility for your life-experience instead of the protection racket in which you can not have to arrive at your own discernments – because you are fitted to a dictate that manages your life for you – or should I rename that as managing your sickness for you. There is a choice here that is not a way to be smug – but a way to grow a more integrated and embracing perspective. And yes – on the way it meets fears and other negative feelings – but finds a way to integrate and more truly align through the experience of discomfort or dissonance.
      Spin resistance if you want – but to truly be wise to the deceits of spin you have to be able to watch your own mind – while reactions are triggered and genuinely desire a better way than guilt, blame and hate.
      Blaming Cholesterol is just another scapegoat for a mis-taken perception in which a sense of guilt and fear re-enact primary defences that cause more damage than the supposed ‘enemy’.

      • SpinResistant

        A career anti-statinist is a person who has has written at least one book or paper claiming that cholesterol is not harmful. People who have very strong views on the issue are not the best choice for carrying out a review involving the cherry picking of studies, and subjective summaries of findings Even given the cherry-picking, a metanalysis would yield a summary of the data that is not subject to reviewer biases and it is deeply suspicious that such techniques were not employed. I’ve been taking statins for 20 years after having a couple of TIAs – symptoms disappeared, blood pressure reduced and no side-effects at all.

        Apart from a very small number of people who get muscle pains, statins are almost free from side-effects for the general population. They are statistically associated with reduced mortality in patients at risk from high blood pressure and this study does nothing to put this frequently replicated finding in doubt.

        Without question – the low risk course is to take statins if a doctor prescribes them, and not to be alarmed by careerists trying to stir up controversy where there is no basis for it. And I’m a statistician (which the authors of this irresponsibly selective review are clearly not – and I do not work for or have any connection whatever with drug companies). The claims made by some commentators on this thtread that cholesterol is not harmful fly in the face of a huge amount of evidence and in my view are irresponsible in the extreme.

        • I believe you are misinformed. But if you are able to interpret data, then perhaps look at Seneff’s work. She has studied symptom report data as well as biology and is well qualified – and without vested commercial interest in interpreting the data.
          A book is not a career – but your argument does apply to those whose careers are enhanced or maintained by extremely powerful commercial lobbies.
          Strong feelings for an honesty of communication allow pioneering scientists to challenge the false assumptions in which science gets stuck in defending due to investments of reputation, money and power in the model.
          I want science unshackled and so I am heartened by those willing to risk careers in challenging dogma.

          Medical insider: “science has taken a turn towards darkness”

          According to Dr. Marcia Angell, a physician and former longtime Editor-in-Chief of the New England Medical Journal (NEMJ): “It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of the New England Journal of Medicine.”

          Dr. Richard Horton, Editor-in-chief of the Lancet recently published a statement declaring that a shocking amount of published research is unreliable at best, if not completely false, as in, fraudulent. Horton declared, “Much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness.”

          • SpinResistant

            I have no objection to anyone challenging dogma and I hold no particular bbrief for the New England Journal of Medicine, which like the BMJ and the Lancet in the UK exist to publish research by medics which would almost never get published in the prestige journals in which professional/career researchers publish.

            However the mere fact that a dogma is challenged is not a sufficient basis for concluding that the challenger is is correct – that decision must be based upon whether the evidence supporting the challenger’s case outweighs the evidence supporting the orthodox position.

            In the present case, the challenger’s case is partial and selective, the design of the study is inadequate and the body of evidence to the contrary is formidable.

            There is no evidence in the study discussed above that statins are harmful, and the very weak case made to support the hypothesis that cholesterol is not is hugely outweighed by studies showing reduced mortality when “bad cholesterol” is reduced. You are free to believe and act upon the current study if you wish, but persuading other people to do so, given the present imbalance of evidence is unethical and irresponsible.

            Despite your rants about the quality of medical evidence, it is as well to bear in mind that the overwhelming majority of people with serious conditions who follow medical advice will do an awful lot better than those who follow the advice of persons such as yourself.

            By all means feel free to believe and act stupidly, but don’t I beg you, try to make converts.

          • I have no expectation of communication with those unwilling to listen – and no desire to persuade anyone of anything they are not already recognizing as their own insight or understanding. You have a multibillion dollar market from statins alone – forecast to reach 1,000,000,000,000 dollars in 2020 (Trillion dollars – )

            I have honesty and peace of heart and mind. There are countless studies showing the reverse of the ‘conventional wisdom’ arising from false associations made by an economist – backed by corporate cartels (Keys).

            I would not wish to convert anyone from their capacity to question and discover for themselves – but the fear that prevents such questioning is leveraged by deceit.

            The death (and disease) arising from legitimately prescribed drugs is one of the major pathologies of our time. How much is quackery hiding in the trojan horse of corporately driven “science”? While doctors become puppets of and pushers for the pharmaceutical companies – the trust in the integrity of the science fades or is replaced by a psuedo religion.

            I don’t base anything I write here on the study in this article – it is one among countless – along with direct testimony of reported experience that is not ‘clinical’ evidence and is therefore ignored. The arrogance of elitist power playing with the lives of others is matched only by a corresponding ignorance of self reinforcing justifications.

            Don’t take anyone’s advice without discerning or listening to your own inmost honesty.

            If cleverdicks sow complexities in which fear, guilt and self-invalidation reactively send you along the outcome they want – then you can learn something about what happens when you don’t stand in your own integrity – and change your mind for a better one. Supporting a decision is making sure the full information for making choice is available. Technocracies of control dictate the narrative and frame the choices so as to deny or invalidate any other. This is all about power and not about anything scientific whatsoever. Nor should we be surprised that such agendas corrupt our institutions, leaders and researchers because it has been the history of humankind since before we even kept it.

          • Tarek

            The New England Journal is the most prestigious medical journal in the world and publishes research by professional medical researchers. The Lancet enjoys a similar prestige. ANYONE working in the field of statistics / medical research would know that

        • Tarek

          I am astounded by the the following: “a metanalysis would yield a summary of the data that is not subject to reviewer biases”. Either you have not worked long enough in the field or you are less of a cynic than I am when it comes to the perpetration of questionable methodology in medical research. Statisticians are without peer when it comes to analysing the data; however unless they have suddenly become involved in critical appraisal, they will only ever process the numbers given to them by the reviewers, none of whom are being supervised by anyone else. Given the multiple biases present when drugs such as statins are involved, the potential of professional advancement in the setting of positive trial results etc I’m afraid I’m not as willing to ignore the potential conflicts of interest. There is a reason why drug company trials consistently report positive results compared to non-industry sponsored trials.

          Your dismissal of the side effects of statins is I’m afraid uninformed. Rory Collins of Oxford University was forced to admit he didn’t know the full extent of the side effects of statins despite a strident position on them previously when challenged directly and that he would shortly be undertaking a review of the situation via data which he mysteriously cannot share with his peers due to ” confidentiality agreements”. A recent paper in the BMJ reported a vastly higher complication rate than previously documented.

          I’m delighted that statins worked for you and I sincerely hope you enjoy many, many more years of health; as a statistician you are of course more informed than I am on “n=1″ type anecdotal experience and how useful it truly is as part of a discussion, but I urge you not to extrapolate from personal experience; a clinic full of patients says a lot more than a papers published whose conclusions are based on data inaccessible to other researchers

          As for the evidence that ‘ cholesterol isnt harmful” , you need to read it before being so dismissive. Multiple high-quality papers have been published in the last few years and you can’t simply dismiss them with reference to older literature; medicine is replete with the carcasses of discarded but once popular paradigms.

          • SpinResistant

            Of course a meta-analysis doesn’t avoid the cherry picking problem so far as the data selected for input goes. But my point was that it does avoid a further layer of subjective bias when it comes to analying the data – these authors simply produce what they claim are fair verbal summaries. I’m sorry if I failed to make it sufficiently clear that this was my point.

            There are a wide range of side-effects of statins but most of them occur with very low frequency – to the point where a number of cardio-vascular specialists have suggested that the risk factor is so low that statins should be prescribed to everyone over fifty of years of age.

            With regard to cholesterol, I am fully aware of the challenges to the orthodox view, but continue to believe that the balance of evidence favours the orthodox position by more than an order of magnitude. Giving an impression to the contrary is irresponsible. The evidence continues to be in favour of the claim that the risks of statins are low and the benefits substantial.

            I agree that The Lancet & the NEJoM are highly respected, especially by the popular press. They tend to be cited by and referred to with considerably less frequency by specialist researchers writing in technical journals. Most worthwhile research that feeds into medicine is not carried out by doctors who are more appropriately trained and viewed as retailers or tradesmen (i.e.their primary function is to supply services to the public) than as researchers. You might like to recall the case of Andrew Wakefield whose research though published by the Lancet was defective in numerous respects.

          • SpinResistant

            You seem to have ignored these words “Even given the cherry-picking, a metanalysis would yield a summary of
            the data that is not subject to reviewer biases and it is deeply
            suspicious that such techniques were not employed”

            I can quiteunderstand why a small group of investigators would need to restrict the number of studies selected for review – for example, limitations on resources. Oncethecstudies have been selected though [Notice: ONCE THE STUDIES HAVE BEEN SELECTED] there seem to be only two reasons why a meta-analysis would not be employed – none is that crucial information is missing (in which case the deficient studies should have been dropped from the review), the other is that using a less objectiv procedure leaves more wiggle room to make the data fit the reviewers’ case.

          • Tarek

            Bias would be introduced prior to submission of the papers. We only ever have their word that they applied their criteria and didn’t simply eliminate inconvenient studies.

            I agree though that even if this did happen a metaanalysis is more useful than a systematic review particularly on this issue given the wealth of statistical data both in favour and against statins. I’m surprised it wasn’t done, but again delaying it simply means another publication is possible from the same data set so I expect the metaanalysis will be published soon

    • Tarek

      I agree it should have been a metaanalysis; would have have been much more useful

  • The headline could have read as: “Is the medical fraud based on false chloresterol science about to be corrected?”

    However the investment in false models can be so pervasive and institutionally powerful as to make it ‘take’ as ‘currency’ by frequent and multiple assertions of gullibility and disinformation.

    The idea of ‘controlling the narrative’ requires that genuine journalism (along with transparency and accountability) are heavily disincentivised.

    Welcome to Corporate Technocracy – with or without the EU? You are to have no voice unless it conforms and aligns with what the official dictate decrees – in which case you can get a hit of power and privilege by pretending it is your voice. There is a kind of psychopathic thinking that sees everything in terms of power struggle – and science and medicine are no less useful as masks than was religion. Discernment is the key to everything – for without it are you a leaf in the wind to conditioning of which you are unaware.

    The nature of power-addiction is rooted in a hatred of Life and seeks the invalidation and replacement of alignment with Life by a mentality of ‘control’ – however the more control is imposed – the more out of control everything becomes – which to the power-elitist means the more control must be brought to bear. They simply refuse to look within and so cannot really learn anything other than subsuming more life to serve power interests.

    The model of the world we co-create as currency of experience and exchange tends to demonize and invalidate Life on Earth so as to gain power thereby and ‘lord over it’ – even at cost of planetary ruin. Ignorance and arrogance worshipped in self-righteous hate that would make a ‘new world order’ through destructive deceits.

    Discerning deceit is something that cannot be systematized as any kind of method or dogmatic set of beliefs – for at best there are guidelines and pointers. You have to be honest within yourself to notice and see the fault in your own mind – else you attempt to pluck it from others – who of course counter or oppose – or manipulate your displaced needs. Its a mess!

    No one owns, controls or judges THE truth to which others must then conform or be invalidated. This is not power but desperation masking as a need to be validated OR ELSE! Because ‘too big to fail means’ ON MY TERMS or really bad things will happen to you as a result of disengaging from my ‘protection’.

    It is simply true in general that the attempt to persist in denial of our true feeling and being seeks ways to cast responsibility elsewhere and then righteously hate in the name of science or health and safety – so as to draw power for the few who position themselves where the ‘power, influence or money’ has been redirected as a result of packaging fear in new forms that promise answer or protection.

    I appreciate Stephanie Seneff’s research – as one facet of a larger understanding. Nothing is so denying of truth as the belief one already knows – so don’t forget to genuinely check in all the time instead of setting identity on auto pilot that is then hacked and run by fear Inc.

    • SpinResistant

      You are talking nonsense. I’m sure you believe what you say but it makes no sense at all and you should stick to commenting on websites for cranks and loonies. On serious website you may cause unnecessary alarm even though your posts never rise above ignorant foolishness.

      • From out of your own mouth! However, I know your true potential is infinitely greater than such a ruse. Who fools who?
        If you don’t understand – why judge in hate?
        This is not a competition – but an opportunity for communication. But when communication is replaced with coercion and deceit – using the FORMS of communication, then I see a wolf in sheep’s clothing. How much do you notice of the underlying intent that communicates through your sense of standing in judgement over another so as to invalidate them and try to pass off as ‘better’?
        I don’t turn true willingness on and off according to the website I am on – in fact it doesn’t come into it. I am meeting you – and others – in shared consideration. I don’t make you or anyone believe or do anything that isn’t your own will – nor seek to trick you into anything. In a world of spin, truth is not believed possible – only competing spin. There is no ground beneath your feet – though you gather statistical ‘proofs’ to the contrary. I don’t say what you should do. I trust you can feel and find what you need, as you need it and extend you the benefit of any doubt – for if you could perceive differently, you would.