could easily be described as the smoking gun of the last two decades.
It’s been responsible
for demonizing entire categories of foods (like eggs and saturated
fats) and blamed for just about every case of heart disease in the
last 20 years.
Yet when I
first opened my medical practice in the mid 80s, cholesterol, and
the fear that yours was too high was rarely talked about.
the way however, cholesterol became a household word – something
that you must keep as low as possible, or suffer the consequences.
You are probably
aware that there are many myths that portray fat and cholesterol
as one of the worst foods you can consume. Please understand that
these myths are actually harming your health.
Not only is
cholesterol most likely not going to destroy your health
(as you have been led to believe), but it is also not the
cause of heart disease.
And for those
of you taking cholesterol-lowering drugs, the information that follows
could not have been given to you fast enough. But before I delve
into this life-changing information, let’s get some basics down
What Is Cholesterol,
and Why Do You Need It?
you do need cholesterol.
waxy substance is found not only in your bloodstream, but also in
every cell in your body, where it helps to produce cell membranes,
hormones, vitamin D and bile acids that help you to digest fat.
Cholesterol also helps in the formation of your memories and is
vital for neurological function.
makes about 75 percent of your body’s cholesterol,[i]
and according to conventional medicine, there are two types:
lipoprotein, or HDL: This is the “good” cholesterol that
helps to keep cholesterol away from your arteries and remove any
excess from arterial plaque, which may help to prevent heart disease.
lipoprotein, or LDL: This “bad” cholesterol circulates
in your blood and, according to conventional thinking, may build
up in your arteries, forming plaque that makes your arteries narrow
and less flexible (a condition called atherosclerosis). If a clot
forms in one of these narrowed arteries leading to your heart
or brain, a heart attack or stroke may result.
up your total cholesterol count are:
Elevated levels of this dangerous fat have been linked to heart
disease and diabetes. Triglyceride levels are known to rise from
eating too many grains and sugars, being physically inactive,
smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol excessively and being overweight
(a), or Lp(a): Lp(a) is a substance that is made up of an LDL
“bad cholesterol” part plus a protein (apoprotein a). Elevated
Lp(a) levels are a very strong risk factor for heart disease.
This has been well established, yet very few physicians check
for it in their patients.
Cholesterol Level is NOT a Great Indicator of Your Heart Disease
in the United States urge everyone over the age of 20 to have their
cholesterol tested once every five years. Part of this test is your
total cholesterol, or the sum of your blood’s cholesterol content,
including HDL, LDLs, and VLDLs.
American Heart Association recommends that your total cholesterol
is less than 200 mg/dL, but what they do not tell you is that total
cholesterol level is just about worthless in determining your risk
for heart disease, unless it is above 330.
the AHA updated their guidelines in 2004, lowering the recommended
level of LDL cholesterol from 130 to less than 100, or even less
than 70 for patients at very high risk.
In order to
achieve these outrageous and dangerously low targets, you typically
need to take multiple cholesterol-lowering drugs. So the guidelines
instantly increased the market for these dangerous drugs. Now, with
testing children’s cholesterol levels, they’re increasing their
market even more.
I have seen
a number of people with total cholesterol levels over 250 who actually
were at low heart disease risk due to their HDL levels. Conversely,
I have seen even more who had cholesterol levels under 200 that
were at a very high risk of heart disease based on the following
is a very potent heart disease risk factor. Just divide your HDL
level by your cholesterol. That percentage should ideally be above
You can also
do the same thing with your triglycerides and HDL ratio. That percentage
should be below 2.
Keep in mind,
however, that these are still simply guidelines, and there’s
a lot more that goes into your risk of heart disease than any one
of these numbers. In fact, it was only after word got out that total
cholesterol is a poor predictor of heart disease that HDL and LDL
cholesterol were brought into the picture.
They give you
a closer idea of what’s going on, but they still do not show you
Is Neither “Good” Nor “Bad”
Now that we’ve
defined good and bad cholesterol, it has to be said that there is
actually only one type of cholesterol. Ron Rosedale,
MD, who is widely considered to be one of the leading anti-aging
doctor in the United States, does an excellent job of explaining
please that LDL and HDL are lipoproteins – fats combined with
proteins. There is only one cholesterol. There is no such thing
as “good” or “bad” cholesterol.
is just cholesterol.
with other fats and proteins to be carried through the bloodstream,
since fat and our watery blood do not mix very well.
therefore must be shuttled to and from our tissues and cells using
proteins. LDL and HDL are forms of proteins and are far from being
we now know there are many types of these fat and protein particles.
LDL particles come in many sizes and large LDL particles are not
a problem. Only the so-called small dense LDL particles can potentially
be a problem, because they can squeeze through the lining of the
arteries and if they oxidize, otherwise known as turning rancid,
they can cause damage and inflammation.
might say that there is ‘good LDL’ and ‘bad LDL.’
HDL particles are better than others. Knowing just your total cholesterol
tells you very little. Even knowing your LDL and HDL levels will
not tell you very much.”
Is Your Friend, Not Your Enemy
Before we continue,
I really would like you to get your mind around this concept.
In the United
States, the idea that cholesterol is evil is very much engrained
in most people’s minds. But this is a very harmful myth that needs
to be put to rest right now.
and foremost,” Dr. Rosedale points out, “cholesterol is
a vital component of every cell membrane on Earth. In other words,
there is no life on Earth that can live without cholesterol.
automatically tell you that, in and of itself, it cannot be evil.
In fact, it is one of our best friends.
not be here without it. No wonder lowering cholesterol too much
increases one’s risk of dying. Cholesterol is also a precursor to
all of the steroid hormones. You cannot make estrogen, testosterone,
cortisone, and a host of other vital hormones without cholesterol.”
and Your Cholesterol
are aware of the incredible influence of vitamin D on your health.
If you aren’t, or need a refresher, you can visit my
vitamin D page.
What most people
do not realize is that the best way to obtain your vitamin D is
from safe exposure to sun on your skin. The UVB rays in sunlight
interact with the cholesterol on your skin and convert it to vitamin
If your cholesterol
level is too low you will not be able to use the sun to generate
sufficient levels of vitamin D.
it provides some intuitive feedback that if cholesterol were so
dangerous, why would your body use it as precursor for vitamin D
and virtually all of the steroid hormones in your body?
that cholesterol is good for you?
role of “good” HDL cholesterol. Essentially, HDL takes cholesterol
from your body’s tissues and arteries, and brings it back to your
liver, where most of your cholesterol is produced. If the purpose
of this was to eliminate cholesterol from your body, it would make
sense that the cholesterol would be shuttled back to your kidneys
or intestines so your body could remove it.
goes back to your liver. Why?
liver is going to reuse it.
taking it back to your liver so that your liver can recycle it;
put it back into other particles to be taken to tissues and cells
that need it,” Dr. Rosedale explains. “Your body is trying
to make and conserve the cholesterol for the precise reason that
it is so important, indeed vital, for health.”
and Inflammation — What’s the Connection?
has become a bit of a buzzword in the medical field because it has
been linked to so many different diseases. And one of those diseases
is heart disease … the same heart disease that cholesterol is often
What am I getting
consider the role of inflammation in your body. In many respects,
it’s a good thing as it’s your body’s natural response to invaders
it perceives as threats. If you get a cut for instance, the process
of inflammation is what allows you to heal.
- Your blood
vessels constrict to keep you from bleeding to death
- Your blood
becomes thicker so it can clot
- Your immune
system sends cells and chemicals to fight viruses, bacteria and
other “bad guys” that could infect the area
- Cells multiply
to repair the damage
the cut is healed and a protective scar may form over the area.
If your arteries
are damaged, a very similar process occurs inside of your body,
except that a “scar” in your artery is known as plaque.
along with the thickening of your blood and constricting of your
blood vessels that normally occur during the inflammatory process,
can indeed increase your risk of high blood pressure and heart attacks.
cholesterol has yet to even enter the picture.
comes in because, in order to replace your damaged cells, it is
no cell can form without it.
So if you have
damaged cells that need to be replaced, your liver will be notified
to make more cholesterol and release it into your bloodstream. This
is a deliberate process that takes place in order for your body
to produce new, healthy cells.
It’s also possible,
and quite common, for damage to occur in your body on a regular
basis. In this case, you will be in a dangerous state of chronic
The test usually
used to determine if you have chronic inflammation is a C-reactive
protein (CRP) blood test. CRP level is used as a marker of inflammation
in your arteries.
- A CRP level
under 1 milligrams per liter of blood means you have a low risk
for cardiovascular disease
- 1 to 3 milligrams
means your risk is intermediate
- More than
3 milligrams is high risk
medicine is warming up to the idea that chronic inflammation can
trigger heart attacks. But they stop short of seeing the big picture.
In the eyes
of conventional medicine, when they see increased cholesterol circulating
in your bloodstream, they conclude that it – not the underlying
damage to your arteries – is the cause of heart attacks.
me to my next point.
of Lowering Cholesterol
the president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, and Mary Enig,
Ph.D., an expert in lipid biochemistry, have gone so far as to call
high cholesterol “an invented disease, a ‘problem’ that emerged
when health professionals learned how to measure cholesterol levels
in the blood.”[iii]
And this explanation
is spot on.
If you have
increased levels of cholesterol, it is at least in part because
of increased inflammation in your body. The cholesterol is there
to do a job: help your body to heal and repair.
medicine misses the boat entirely when they dangerously recommend
that lowering cholesterol with drugs is the way to reduce your risk
of heart attacks, because what is actually needed is to address
whatever is causing your body damage – and leading to increased
inflammation and then increased cholesterol.
As Dr. Rosedale
so rightly points out:2
damage is occurring such that it is necessary to distribute extra
cholesterol through the bloodstream, it would not seem very wise
to merely lower the cholesterol and forget about why it is there
in the first place.
seem much smarter to reduce the extra need for the cholesterol –
the excessive damage that is occurring, the reason for the chronic
how to do this later in the report, but first let’s take a look
at the dangers of low cholesterol – and how it came to be that
cholesterol levels needed to be so low in the first place.
If Your Cholesterol
Is Too Low …
All kinds of
nasty things can happen to your body. Remember, every single one
of your cells needs cholesterol to thrive – including those
in your brain. Perhaps this is why low cholesterol wreaks havoc
on your psyche.
One large study
conducted by Dutch researchers found that men with chronically low
cholesterol levels showed a consistently higher risk of having depressive
This may be
because cholesterol affects the metabolism of serotonin, a substance
involved in the regulation of your mood. On a similar note, Canadian
researchers found that those in the lowest quarter of total cholesterol
concentration had more than six times the risk of committing suicide
as did those in the highest quarter.[v]
Dozens of studies
also support a connection between low or lowered cholesterol levels
and violent behavior, through this same pathway: lowered cholesterol
levels may lead to lowered brain serotonin activity, which may,
in turn, lead to increased violence and aggression.[vi]
And one meta-analysis
of over 41,000 patient records found that people who take statin
drugs to lower their cholesterol as much as possible may have a
higher risk of cancer,[vii]
while other studies have linked low cholesterol to Parkinson’s
level is too low? Brace yourself.
level much under 150 – an optimum would be more like 200.
Now I know
what you are thinking: “But my doctor tells me my cholesterol needs
to be under 200 to be healthy.” Well let me enlighten you
about how these cholesterol recommendations came to be. And I warn
you, it is not a pretty story.
This is a significant
issue. I have seen large numbers of people who have their cholesterol
lowered below 150, and there is little question in my mind that
it is causing far more harm than any benefit they are receiving
by lowering their cholesterol this low.
What Cholesterol Levels Are Healthy or Harmful?
In 2004, the
U.S. government’s National Cholesterol Education Program panel advised
those at risk for heart disease to attempt to reduce their LDL cholesterol
to specific, very low, levels.
a 130-milligram LDL cholesterol level was considered healthy. The
updated guidelines, however, recommended levels of less than 100,
or even less than 70 for patients at very high risk.
Keep in mind
that these extremely low targets often require multiple cholesterol-lowering
drugs to achieve.
in 2006 a review in the Annals of Internal Medicine[viii]
found that there is insufficient evidence to support the target
numbers outlined by the panel. The authors of the review were unable
to find research providing evidence that achieving a specific LDL
target level was important in and of itself, and found that the
studies attempting to do so suffered from major flaws.
the scientists who helped develop the guidelines even admitted that
the scientific evidence supporting the less-than-70 recommendation
was not very strong.
So how did
these excessively low cholesterol guidelines come about?
of the nine doctors on the panel that developed the new
cholesterol guidelines had been making money from the drug companies
that manufacture statin cholesterol-lowering drugs.[ix]
The same drugs
that the new guidelines suddenly created a huge new market for in
the United States.
I think not.
the finding that there is absolutely NO evidence to show that lowering
your LDL cholesterol to 100 or below is good for you, what do you
think the American Heart Association STILL recommends?
LDL cholesterol levels to less than 100.[x]
And to make
matters worse, the standard recommendation to get to that level
almost always includes one or more cholesterol-lowering drugs.
of Cholesterol-Lowering Medications
If you are
concerned about your cholesterol levels, taking a drug should be
your absolute last resort. And when I say last resort, I’m saying
the odds are very high, greater than 100 to 1, that you don’t need
drugs to lower your cholesterol.
To put it another
way, among the more than 20,000 patients who have come to my clinic,
only four or five of them truly needed these drugs, as they had
genetic challenges of familial hypercholesterolemia that required
to what is going on in the general population. According to data
from Medco Health Solutions Inc., more than half of insured Americans
are taking drugs for chronic health conditions. And cholesterol-lowering
medications are the second most common variety among this group,
with nearly 15 percent of chronic medication users taking them (high
blood pressure medications – another vastly over-prescribed
category – were first).[xi]
as written in BusinessWeek early in 2008, “Some researchers
have even suggested – half-jokingly – that the medications
should be put in the water supply.”[xii]
lucky that you probably do NOT need to take cholesterol-lowering
medications, because these are some nasty little pills.
work by inhibiting an enzyme in your liver that’s needed to manufacture
cholesterol. What is so concerning about this is that when you go
tinkering around with the delicate workings of the human body, you
risk throwing everything off kilter.
Case in point,
“statin drugs inhibit not just the production of cholesterol, but
a whole family of intermediary substances, many if not all of which
have important biochemical functions in their own right,” say Enig
statin drugs deplete your body of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), which is
beneficial to heart health and muscle function. Because doctors
rarely inform people of this risk and advise them to take a CoQ10
supplement, this depletion leads to fatigue, muscle weakness, soreness,
and eventually heart failure.
and weakness, a condition called rhabdomyolysis, is actually the
most common side effect of statin drugs, which is thought to occur
because statins activate the atrogin-1 gene, which plays a key role
in muscle atrophy.[xiii]
By the way,
muscle pain and weakness may be an indication that your body tissues
are actually breaking down – a condition that can cause kidney
have also been linked to:
- An increased
risk of polyneuropathy (nerve damage that causes pain in the hands
and feet and trouble walking)
impairment, including memory loss[xiv]
- A potential
increased risk of cancer[xv]
function of the immune system[xvi]
- Liver problems,
including a potential increase in liver enzymes (so people taking
statins must be regularly monitored for normal liver function)
a possible association was found between statins and an increased
risk of Lou Gehrig’s disease.[xvii]
drugs besides statins also have side effects, most notably muscle
pain and weakness.
If, for whatever
reason, you or someone you know or love does not believe the information
in this report and chooses to stay on statin drugs, then please
make sure they at least take one to two Ubiquinols per day.
This will help
prevent all the side effects mentioned above.
the reduced version of Coenzyme Q-10 and is far more effective if
you are over 35–40 years old. It is the form of the supplement
that actually works, and if you take CoQ-10 and your body can’t
reduce it to ubiquinol you are just fooling yourself and wasting
You can visit
information page for more details.
Drugs Even Effective?
With all of
these risks, the drugs had better be effective, right? Well, even
this is questionable. At least, it depends on how you look at it.
lowering drugs can effectively lower your cholesterol numbers,
but are they actually making you any healthier, and do they help
prevent heart disease?
Have you ever
heard of the statistic known as NNT, or number needed to treat?
I didn’t think
so. In fact, most doctors haven’t either. And herein lies the problem.
the question: How many people have to take a particular drug to
avoid one incidence of a medical issue (such as a heart attack)?
if a drug had an NNT of 50 for heart attacks, then 50 people have
to take the drug in order to prevent one heart attack.
companies would rather that you not focus on NNT, because when you
do, you get an entirely different picture of their “miracle” drugs.
Take, for instance, Pfizer’s Lipitor, which is the most prescribed
cholesterol medication in the world and has been prescribed to more
than 26 million Americans.[xviii]
Lipitor’s own Web site, Lipitor is clinically proven to lower bad
cholesterol 39–60 percent, depending on the dose. Sounds fairly
actually did an excellent story on this very topic earlier this
and they found the REAL numbers right on Pfizer’s own newspaper
ad for Lipitor.
glance, the ad boasts that Lipitor reduces heart attacks by 36 percent.
But there is an asterisk. And when you follow the asterisk, you
find the following in much smaller type:
in a large clinical study, 3% of patients taking a sugar pill or
placebo had a heart attack compared to 2% of patients taking Lipitor.”
What this means
is that for every 100 people who took the drug over 3.3 years, three
people on placebos, and two people on Lipitor, had heart attacks.
That means that taking Lipitor resulted in just one fewer heart
attack per 100 people.
The NNT, in
this case, is 100. One hundred people have to take Lipitor for more
than three years to prevent one heart attack. And the other 99 people,
well, they’ve just dished out hundreds of dollars and increased
their risk of a multitude of side effects for nothing.
So you can
see how the true effectiveness of cholesterol drugs like Lipitor
is hidden behind a smokescreen.
Or in some
cases, not hidden at all.
Vytorin: No Medical Benefits
Early in 2008,
it came out that Zetia, which works by inhibiting absorption of
cholesterol from your intestines, and Vytorin, which is a combination
of Zetia and Zocor (a statin drug), do not work.
This was discovered
AFTER the drugs acquired close to 20 percent of the U.S. market
for cholesterol-lowering drugs. And also after close to 1 million
prescriptions for the drugs were being written each week in the
United States, bringing in close to $4 billion in 2007.[xx]
It was only
after the results of a trial by the drugs’ makers, Merck and Schering-Plough,
were released that this was found out. Never mind that the trial
was completed in April 2006, and results were not released until
And it’s no
wonder the drug companies wanted to hide these results.
does lower cholesterol by 15 percent to 20 percent, trials did not
show that it reduces heart attacks or strokes, or that it reduces
plaques in arteries that can lead to heart problems.
The trial by
the drugs’ makers, which studied whether Zetia could reduce the
growth of plaques, found that plaques grew nearly twice as fast
in patients taking Zetia along with Zocor (Vytorin) than in those
taking Zocor alone.[xxi]
the answer is not to turn back to typical statin drugs to lower
your cholesterol, as many of the so-called experts would have you
You see, statins
are thought to have a beneficial effect on inflammation in your
body, thereby lowering your risk of heart attack and stroke.
But you can
lower inflammation in your body naturally, without risking any of
the numerous side effects of statin drugs. This should also explain
why my guidelines for lowering cholesterol are identical to those
to lower inflammation.
For more in-depth
information about cholesterol-lowering drugs, please see my recently
drug index page.
How to Lower
Inflammation, and Thereby Your Risk of Heart Disease, Naturally
There is a
major misconception that you must avoid foods like eggs and saturated
fat to protect your heart. While it’s true that fats from animal
sources contain cholesterol, I’ve explained earlier in this article
why this should not scare you – but I’ll explain even further
principle is based on the “lipid hypothesis” – developed in
the 1950s by nutrition pioneer Ancel Keys – that linked dietary
fat to coronary heart disease.
community of that time completely accepted the hypothesis, and encouraged
the public to cut out butter, red meat, animal fats, eggs, dairy
and other “artery clogging” fats from their diets – a radical
change at that time.
What you may
not know is that when Keys published his analysis that claimed to
prove the link between dietary fats and coronary heart disease,
he selectively analyzed information from only six countries to prove
his correlation, rather than comparing all the data available at
the time – from 22 countries.
As a result
of this “cherry-picked” data, government health organizations began
bombarding the public with advice that has contributed to the diabetes
and obesity epidemics going on today: eat a low-fat diet.
numerous studies have actually shown that Keys’ theory was wrong
and saturated fats are healthy, including these studies from Fallon
and Enig’s classic article The Skinny on Fats:[xxii]
- A survey
of South Carolina adults found no correlation of blood cholesterol
levels with “bad” dietary habits, such as use of red meat, animal
fats, fried foods, butter, eggs, whole milk, bacon, sausage and
- A Medical
Research Council survey showed that men eating butter ran half
the risk of developing heart disease as those using margarine.[xxiv]
as Americans cut out nutritious animal fats from their diets, they
were left hungry. So they began eating more processed grains, more
vegetable oils, and more high-fructose corn syrup, all of which
are nutritional disasters.
It is this
latter type of diet that will eventually lead to increased inflammation,
and therefore cholesterol, in your body. So don’t let anyone scare
you away from saturated fat anymore.
is actually caused by a laundry list of items such as:
cholesterol (cholesterol that has gone rancid, such as
that from overcooked, scrambled eggs)
- Eating lots
of sugar and grains
- Eating foods
cooked at high temperatures
- Eating trans
- A sedentary
So to sum it
all up, in order to lower your inflammation and cholesterol levels
naturally, you must address the items on this list.
How to Lower
Your Cholesterol Naturally …
- Make sure
you’re getting plenty of high-quality, animal-based omega3-fats.
I prefer those from krill oil. New research suggests that as little
as 500 mg may lower your total cholesterol and triglycerides and
will likely increase your HDL cholesterol.
with the plan of eliminating, grains and sugars in your daily
diet. It is especially important to eliminate dangerous
sugars such as fructose. If your HDL/Cholesterol ratio is
abnormal and needs to be improved it would also serve you well
to virtually eliminate fruits from your diet, as that it also
a source of fructose. Once your cholesterol improves you can gradually
reintroduce it to levels that don’t raise your cholesterol.
- Eat the
right foods for your
nutritional type. You can learn your nutritional type by taking
our FREE test.
- Eat a good
portion of your food raw.
- Eat healthy,
preferably raw, fats that correspond to your nutritional type.
and coconut oil
raw dairy products (including butter, cream, sour cream, cheese,
(lightly cooked with yolks intact or raw)
- Get the
right amount of exercise, especially Peak
Fitness type of exercise. When you exercise you increase your
circulation and the blood flow throughout your body. The components
of your immune system are also better circulated, which means
your immune system has a better chance of fighting an illness
before it has the opportunity to spread.
- Avoid smoking
and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.
your emotional challenges. I particularly love the Emotional Freedom
Technique (EFT) for stress management.
So there you
have it; the reasons why high cholesterol is a worry that many of
you simply do not need to have, along with a simple plan to optimize
you love is currently taking cholesterol-lowering drugs, I urge
you to share this information with them as well, and take advantage
of the thousands of free pages of information on www.Mercola.com.
For the majority
of you reading this right now, there’s no reason to risk your health
with cholesterol-lowering drugs. With the plan I’ve just outlined,
you’ll achieve the cholesterol levels you were meant to have, along
with the very welcome “side effects” of increased energy, mood and
Too good to
For the vast
majority of people, making a few lifestyle changes causes healthy
cholesterol levels to naturally occur.
your health really is in your hands. Now it’s up to you to take
control – and shape it into something great.
Cholesterol is NOT the Cause of Heart Disease, Ron
Rosedale May 28, 2005
Fallon, S. and Mary Enig. “Dangers
of Statin Drugs: What You Haven’t Been Told About Popular Cholesterol-Lowering
Medicines,” The Weston A. Price Foundation
Heart Association, “What Your Cholesterol Level Means,” accessed
May 22, 2008
than half of Americans on chronic meds May 14, 2008 (accessed
June 9, 2008)
Edwards, I. Ralph; Star, Kristina; Kiuru, Anne, “Statins,
Neuromuscular Degenerative Disease and an Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis-Like
Syndrome,” Drug Safety, Volume 30, Number 6, 2007,
New York Times, “Cardiologists
Question Delay of Data on 2 Drugs,” November 21, 2007 (accessed
June 10, 2008)
Lackland, D T, et al, J Nutr, Nov 1990, 120:11S:1433–1436
Nutr Week, Mar 22, 1991, 21:12:2–3