The “High” Cholesterol Myth

by Justin Smith |   Date Released : 22 Aug 2009
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Justin Smith

About the author: Justin Smith

Justin Smith is the author of the book $29 Billion Reasons to Lie about Cholesterol: Making Profit by Turning Healthy People into Patients. As an experienced nutrition and exercise coach, Justin has helped a large number of people within the corporate sector. For four years, he was based at the BBC in West London as a personal trainer. He has also worked with professional and Olympic level athletes. His specialties include: Integrated Exercise Prescription, Metabolic Typing, Hair Mineral Analysis, Neurotransmitter Balancing and Detoxification Protocols. Before his career in the health and fitness industry, Justin obtained a degree in Engineering. This rigorous academic background has provided him with the ability to scientifically evaluate published research and the conclusions drawn from it. In addition to his academic accomplishments, Justin was also a competitive cyclist for nine years.

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Comments (9)

Smith, Justin | 28 Oct 2009, 11:13 AM

I am delighted to find so many comments about my article. This provides me with the opportunity to give more information in specific areas. A comment is made below regarding the relationship between genetics and inflammation. Yes, I agree that genetics has a part to play, but this, in my opinion, is merely stating the obvious – since genetics has a role to play in everything. The important and most significant point is the heart disease is mostly an inflammatory condition. We are now beginning to understand just how important this inflammatory process is, but unfortunately, the general public and indeed many health professionals are still unaware of this because of the commercial interests in cholesterol-lowering medications and the false idea that cholesterol simply blocks up the arteries. On another point, yes, statins can have an effect on the stabilisation of plaque within arteries. This is an important point and I am glad it has been mentioned. In clinical trials involving secondary prevention (people who have already had at least one heart attack) there is some evidence that statins might be beneficial in the short-term – this is because of the “other effects” of statins (including plaque stabilisation) – effects that have nothing to do with cholesterol at all. These benefits have to be compared against the adverse effects of the drugs - a debate way beyond the scope of this particular article but one that I have included in my book. This particular article is specifically about the myth of 'high' cholesterol. Unfortunately, I must directly address the comments made by David Driscoll below. Although I fully welcome your opinion, I respectfully ask that you do not make comments about my book before you have actually seen a copy of it. My book contains hundreds of references to studies published in the most respected medical journals in the world. There is no conspiracy, just a coherent scientific argument. It took me many years of hard work to research and write the book. I fully welcome and actively encourage your critical review – all I ask is that you read at least part of it first.

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Smith, Justin | 28 Oct 2009, 10:14 AM

From some of the comments below, it appears that more information is required regarding the normal distribution of cholesterol levels. It is understandable that many people get confused over this issue considering the amount of propaganda associated with cholesterol. The cholesterol hypothesis is (of course) that an increased cholesterol level results in an increased risk for heart disease. However, when we look at cholesterol levels for those who do have heart disease and those who do not have heart disease, we find that cholesterol levels are the same for both groups. Therefore, the hypothesis that cholesterol causes heart disease is false. A comment has been made below that other factors will have an effect – yes, this is absolutely correct and precisely the point that I have made in this article. That is: other factors are most certainly having an effect and cholesterol has got nothing to do with a person's risk for heart disease. If cholesterol was a risk factor, then the normal distribution graphs would be different for those who do have heart disease and those who do not. This is the most basic concept of statistics and epidemiology. The strength of the argument that I have presented in this aspect is reinforced by the fact that both the groups used for comparison are from the same study. For anyone who would like to understand medical statics, I would recommend the book titled Handbook of Essential Concepts in Clinical Research, published by The Lancet. I should also mention that I am not the first person to present this particular point. This fact about the normal distribution of cholesterol levels has been highlighted by Professor Brisson, Dr Uffe Ravnskov, and it is also discussed by Erik Rifkin and Professor Bouwer in the book The Illusion of Certainty. I would also add that a number of medical doctors and scientists have read what I have written and none have questioned the validity of the statement.

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Leyva, John | 20 Oct 2009, 08:21 AM

If you're looking for a definitive source on the whole process of how high cholesterol became associated with heart disease and the science behind it, I would highly recomment Gary Taubes' "Good Calories, Bad Calories". It's one of the most highly researched books and just reading the first section of the book should give you a much clearer picture on what cholesterol and the diets recommeneded to lower it actually have done to people.

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CHAMBERLAIN, GAIL | 16 Oct 2009, 05:55 AM

Also, do not forget that statins cause damage to muscle tissue. This is unequivocal whether the damage is small or large. Muscle damage is not a "rare but serious side effect" as touted on warning statements by the drug manufacturers. Do we forget that the heart is also a muscle.

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Reynolds, John | 29 Sep 2009, 23:09 PM

It is a completely viable idea that 'we' have been mislead about the effects of either high or low cholesterol. However, we need to weigh up each argument on its merits. You do not need a drug to 'battle' cholesterol levels if they are stable to begin with. Eating simply (no processed food, not too many carbs) would benefit us greatly and would solve this issue. That is our struggle as PTs, to convince our clients that the 1980s vision for convenience needs to be a part of history not our future. It is the responsibility of all of us (medical profession included) to keep investigating the truth and ignore the influence of large pharmaceutical companies.

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Rohner, Douglas | 25 Sep 2009, 04:42 AM

I agree that all the information has to be refined. I would like to hear peoples opinions on Ancel Key's as well considering he basically launched the whole cholesterol idea in america from his 7 nations study, while expelling alot of pertinent information.

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Driscoll, David | 25 Sep 2009, 03:41 AM

Yet another example where PTs should pull their heads in and either go and get a medical degree or stick to the area they are trained in. Going and reading a couple of books on conspiracy theories (and publishing your own) and then cherry picking a study or two that supports yours views isn't science - I'm sure they even teach that in engineering!

It's funny that you quote the Crossman paper for a reference on inflammation and fail to mention his statement "The inflammatory response in any individual is programmed by their genetic composition". Why do you ignore this bit when recommending CHEK practitioners for treatment?

Crossman also admits that "The beneficial effects of aspirin and statins has convinced us that plaque pacification therapy is possible". Is this not worthy of a mention?

And when stating "but we have known for decades that cholesterol can vary from 105 mg/dl to 343 mg/dl in people who are perfectly healthy" can you really do no better than to quote your own book?

I also find you arguement that cholesterol is vital and too little can result in serious conditions not evidence that too much can't be harmful. Surely the same arguement can be made for any nutrient, without it we would die, therefore it can't be toxic??

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Magill, Andrew | 16 Sep 2009, 06:26 AM

While it is always important to challenge widely held perceptions about helath or exercise which may not be based in fact and I would agree that it benefits drug companies to attemtp to increase the demand for cholesterol lowering drugs, I think we should be careful as trainers not to give advice about doctor described medications and to understand how to correctly evaluate research findings. Specifically, although I think many of the conclusions from the Framinham study are quite good, a large study (such as the Framingham study) does not automatically mean that all conclusions drawn from the data are accurate or valid. In addtion, stating that "beacuase a group of people withouth heart disease had similar ranges in cholesterol levels to people who did have heart disease proves that cholesterol is not a risk factor for heart disease" is not a valid conclusion. There may be other reasons that the group of people withouth heart disease did not develop it. Please better understand how to evaluate scientific research and/or more clearly explain the research you cite before using it to attempt to prove a point of view.

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Beer, Thomas | 29 Aug 2009, 03:27 AM

I would like to read a response from a cardiologist /neurologist on the effects of high cholesterol on heart disease

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