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Chasing the wrong rabbit – why cholesterol levels are just a distraction

CholesterolThere is a 30 billion dollar industry supporting the use of statins for both primary prevention and secondary prevention (after the fact) of heart attacks.  Similarly, hundreds of millions in studies have been spent to “justify the use of statins”.  The JUPITER study is the most recent.  I have already commented on my expectation that Big Pharma will try to position statins as “anti-aging” drugs as soon as enough people are saying the words “anti-aging” to make it OK for conservative medical doctors to look at those words without screaming “fraud and quack”.  To jog your memory, recall my comments on the “Is it Low T” scenario. I still laugh at all the abuse I took in the first 8 years of this century until Big Pharma came out with an acceptable drug for “Low T”.

OK, back to cholesterol and the big 30 billion dollar myth.

Statin drugs lower LDL and this is where, purported anti-aging effects notwithstanding, the major focus of the scientific literature has been.

What an absolute waste!

If you look at the Eskimo population that eats a traditional diet, and the traditional Japanese diet as well, you find loads of people who have high cholesterol.  You will also find more than you’d expect with high blood pressure and, especially in the Eskimos, significant obesity.  But you find almost no heart disease.

No, I am not tricking you by misrepresenting high HDL (good cholesterol) as part of this number. Many of these people do have higher than average good cholesterol but they also have LDL bad cholesterols that would prompt any self-respecting family doc, internist or cardiologist to whip out the ubiquitous prescription pad and start writing for statins and more statins.

OK, so it must be genetics or epigenetics, right? Somewhere, buried in the Eskimo and Japanese genome, there is a magic allele (a variant of the typical gene) that allows these people to stave off heart attacks in spite of too much bad cholesterol, right!?

Wrong!

The whole thing is very simply the effect of their diet because when you take these populations and stick them on our food pyramid or “traditional Western Diet” they develop heart disease and all the other things we get, at exactly the same rates, if not more.

Bottom line: the risk of heart disease in any population is directly related to the Omega6/3 levels.  The higher the tissue levels of Omega 3 (and yes, the blood levels as well), the lower the risk of heart disease.

I tell people to shoot for 1 to 1 Omega 6 to 3, but most of these populations are closer to .85. In other words, they are Omega 3 dominant.  And no, they don’t bleed to death (unless you shoot them), they don’t smell like fish, and the LDL particles that are supposedly causing harm in this situation either go away after a few months on a highly dominant Omega 3 diet or, as in the case of the above populations, they don’t matter.

LDL may wander into an inflammatory lesion and get oxidized but the toxic effects are caused by high Omega 6 levels unbalanced (e.g. in the presence of low Omega 3 levels) in the first place.

The real culprit is free fatty acid release from the liver, which must take place in order for cholesterol to be released as well. Free fatty acid release is caused when the liver gets too many calories in a single bolus to handle them, so it sends them out into the blood where they, along with the Omega 6’s, do the damage.

The cure for free fatty acid release is:  Don’t eat so damn much at one sitting!

So heart disease could be reduced by several hundred thousand people a year by combining the following:

1)         Reduced Omega 6 intake

2)         Increased Omega 3 intake

3)         Smaller meals and, if needed, small snacks in between

You can do most of this with diet alone but the majority of people, myself included, like to eat with other people socially and are more “omnivorous” than we might need to be. Secondly, I don’t really like fish all that much and I do not want all the mercury and other toxins that are in many different fish species, even though the FDA says a little mercury won’t hurt.

There are absolutely no long term studies on “a little mercury consumption”.  My way of thinking is a little over a long period of time can be very deadly, especially since mercurial dementia is not a typical part of the differential diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.  Also I do not want to count on today’s breed of ADD doctors to remember to check for mercury toxicity in a demented 80-year-old?! NO thanks! I will just avoid mercury.

I can’t count on them to chase the right rabbit!

This is why I have my fish oil purified to parts per trillion.

Doc