Cholesterol has many benefits. In Eat Fat, Lose Fat, Enig and Fallon list some of the more impressive ones:
- Your body uses cholesterol to make hormones that help you deal with stress and protect against heart disease and cancer.
- Cholesterol acts as an antioxidant, protecting us against free radical damage that leads to heart disease and cancer.
- The body uses cholesterol to repair damaged cells.
Enig and Fallon cite NYU Medical Center’s Dr. Meyer as noting that “indicting fat and cholesterol for hardening of the arteries is like accusing white blood cells of causing infection, rather than helping the immune system to address it.”
Enig and Fallon also cite a report published in The Lancet in 2001 on findings from the Honolulu Heart Program. These findings show that increased mortality is associated with elderly people with low serum cholesterol. The same study indicates that the earlier patients start to have lower cholesterol concentrations, the greater the risk of death. Enig and Fallon cite another study reported in the 2003 American Journal of Cardiology on the relationship of cholesterol and plaque buildup. The study reports that patients who successfully lowered their cholesterol levels did not reduce plaque buildup in their arteries.
For women, Enig and Fallon report that high cholesterol may be better. A workshop held at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and published in a 1992 issue of the journal Circulation concluded the following: In all studies involving women, high cholesterol levels—even as high as 1,000 mg/dl—are not a risk factor for heart disease. And for women, low cholesterol is more dangerous than high cholesterol. Enig and Fallon follow up with documentation from a study provided by the University of British Columbia and published in a 2003 issue of the British Medical Journal. The conclusion: statin drugs, which lower cholesterol, offer no benefit to women for preventing heart disease.
I will continue next week with my search on the value of statin drugs as a tool in the war on heart disease. So far, the statin drug crowd has a lot of catching up to do.
Read Statin Drugs: Part 1
Read Statin Drugs: Part 2