Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Not the Cholesterol?!?

Thanks to Credible Evidence for the bird dog to this post From Heart Scan Blog

Cholesterol doesn’t harm, maim, or kill. It is simply used as a crude–very crude–marker. It is, in reality, a component of the body, of the cell wall, of lipoproteins (lipid-carrying proteins) in the bloodstream. It is used a an indirect gauge, a “dipstick,” for lipoproteins in the blood to those who don’t understand how to identify, characterize, and quantify actual lipoproteins in the blood.
Cholesterol itself never killed anybody, any more than a bad paint job on your car could cause a fatal car accident.
OK, then why has there been so much focus on it for the last 40+ years?!?!

Here's the short version - cholesterol is under the light post; as in, you must surely have heard about the folks who find a drunk on his hands and knees looking for his car key.  When asked, he replies that his car is a couple hundred yards away, but it's too dark there to find a key.  With cholesterol, there's a correlation with higher levels and mortality, AND the atherosclerotic plaques associated with heard disease and stroke - cardiovascular disease - are composed of a large amount of cholesterol.  So it would have been crazy not to suspect that high cholesterol causes cardiovascular disease (CVD).  So the government ran a bunch of tests trying to prove the conjecture that either high cholesterol intake (which has a minor impact on blood cholesterol levels) or high cholesterol in the blood CAUSES CVD.  But it has never been proved, and with so many dollars expended trying to prove the causative relationship, and none being found, I think you'd have be pretty faithful in the conjecture not to believe it has been disproved.

If that story seems crazy, and you'd like to read more, there's a powerful version of it here:
The Soft Science of Dietary Fat

Why do you care?  Mainly so you can make informed choices about your relationship with your doctor.  If you read the Taubes article, you will know more about cholesterol than most doctors seem to, and you can therefore make a decision about your potential treatment options that is not dependent on the degree to which your doctor has kept up with emerging knowledge.  I still find myself stunned when I meet a doc who thinks cholesterol will kill someone.

Eat eggs, eat steak, eat bacon if you like those foods, or don't, but hopefully whatever you choose won't be the result of a never proved conjecture about diet, cholesterol and CVD.

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