I have only recently become concerned with cholesterol. My own cholesterol level has always been low: in the 120’s in my early 20’s; up to 140 or so in recent years. This year it went up quite a bit, relatively speaking — up to 188. But the “good” HDL is nice and high at 69, so my doctor is not concerned.* I have friends, however, who have not been as lucky: their levels have been much higher and their doctors have recommended drastic dietary changes and expensive cholesterol-lowering medications.
Why? Well, supposedly because an elevated cholesterol level — particularly a high level of the “bad” LDL cholesterol — is linked to an increased incidence of heart disease.
The only problem is that the “link” between cholesterol and heart disease is tenuous at best. Information about this can be obtained from numerous resources: In books there are the classic Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health (Vintage), or the more recent release from Robb Wolf, The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet, or the aptly titled The Cholesterol Myths: Exposing the Fallacy That Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Cause Heart Disease, just to name a few. In terms of blogs, check out this post about the danger and ineffectiveness of cholesterol-lowering statins, as well as this post, which includes a discussion of which tests are actually helpful in detecting indicators of heart disease and the risk thereof. Also be sure to read this article which provides a comprehensive overview of the entire subject, including why cholesterol is good (it preserves mental function, among other things), why statins are bad, and what one can do naturally to reduce inflammation in his body and thereby improve his overall health. In fact, just in putting together all the links I used to write this blog post, I found another recent article here.
If information sources like these are so abundant and easily accessible, then why is it that doctors are reflexively recommending that patients with high cholesterol make drastic dietary changes or — even worse — take expensive prescription medications that are, at the very least, unnecessary and ineffective? I hope to have a better answer to this question when I speak to my own doctor next week. But in the last day I did some rooting around on the Internet and, not surprisingly (to me, anyway), found that our federal government might have something to do with this. Thanks to an e-mail list to which I subscribe, I was referred to this blog post, where I learned about the United States National Cholesterol Education Program. Apparently this government organization takes it upon itself to educate physicians and the general public about the dangers of cholesterol and recommends that individuals maintain an LDL level below 100 — a level that even my own LDL exceeds. Yes, even I of the good cholesterol levels should be on cholesterol-lowering medication, or at least change my diet, if the government has anything to say about it! And people like my friends with higher levels would have no choice; they would be required to go on medication in order to achieve LDL levels that low.
But wait, the story gets worse. It’s bad enough to be told by the government that you should be taking a powerful, potentially dangerous drug to treat a condition that is most likely benign. This is especially true with Obamacare looming on the horizon, which will eventually result in socialized medicine and more mandates about what we can and cannot eat, and what medications we must agree to take in order to obtain our “free” health care. The additional piece of information which makes this whole thing truly outrageous is that, of the 9-member NCEP panel, 8 of them receive “honoraria” from the leading manufacturers of cholesterol-lowering statins. I have no problem with drug manufacturers making tons of money and getting rich from making life-saving drugs. I don’t even have a problem with drug manufacturers making money from drugs they honestly thought would be helpful, but turned out not to be. I do have a problem with our government continuing to urge people who most likely will not benefit from these drugs to go ahead and take them anyway. And I especially have a problem with that if members of the government panel responsible for this are being paid by the drug companies themselves.
Members of a government body, who have significant conflicts of interest, are “educating” our physicians so that they will urge us to cut important nutrients from our diets and to take expensive prescription medications that are unnecessary and most likely harmful. Perhaps we will need to do more than repeal Obamacare in order to eliminate the danger of government “death panels”?