The Vitamin Kid

Avoiding bad medicine and finding non-toxic treatments that actually work

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Location: Ankeny, Iowa, United States

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Maddening deception of the public

I am rereading Thomas J. Moore's seminal article from The Atlantic Monthly, "The Cholesterol Myth." It may not be good for my health. So much money has been spent chasing blind alleys in the search for ways to blame cholesterol for heart disease, cancer, stroke, and other maladies.

Once a well-funded group like the Heart Institute invests a lot of time and money in an idea, they are not about to simply give it up, no matter how damning the evidence. Here's a quote about the largest ongoing heart study of all time:

"Four decades after the Framingham study began, the research team examined the question of total mortality and cholesterol. Again the results showed that for those with low cholesterol levels deaths from other causes mostly offset any reduced incidence of coronary heart disease. The researchers found 'no increased overall mortality with either high or low serum cholesterol levels' among men after age forty-seven. There was also no relationship among women after age forty-seven, or among women younger than forty, who very rarely have coronary heart disease. Furthermore, the researchers said, people whose cholesterol levels are declining may be at special risk. 'After age 50 years the association of mortality with cholesterol values is confounded by people whose cholesterol levels are falling -- perhaps due to diseases predisposing to death.' Left unanswered was how a spontaneous decline might predispose one to death while non-spontaneous response to [drug anti-cholesterol] treatment would not."

After fifteen years, there is little I can find to justify changing this assessment. Lowering cholesterol has minimal potential to extend life.

Please take the time to look at "The Cholesterol Myth" in its entirety here. Sometimes learning the truth makes you joyful, and sometimes it can just make you angry. Many things can be done to substantially enhance health and extend life. Unfortunately, for most people, reducing cholesterol levels is not one of those things. The Heart Institute has been successful in dramatically inflating the risk of cholesterol in the public's mind, and exaggerating any benefits of taking drugs to lower cholesterol (and minimizing the risks of those drugs).

Friday, April 08, 2005

A non-drug cholesterol treatment -- better than drugs

Several studies have tested a non-drug cholesterol treatment head to head against cholesterol lowering drugs. The cheaper non-drug alternative came out on top. But it would be best to let the results of these studies speak for themselves.

A study by CastaƱa, et al published in 2001 by the Journals of Gerontology Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences tested a group of elderly patients with high cholesterol and high risk for coronary heart disease.

Half of the study patients were assigned to take policosanol, a natural nutritional supplement, and half took a dummy pill, i.e. a sugar capsule. The patients taking policosanol received a 5mg daily dose for 12 weeks, followed by 10mg dose for the next 12 weeks. At the end of the study, those taking policosanol had lowered their LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) by 24%. Amazingly, their good cholesterol (HDL) levels had increased by 29%. Those taking policosanol had improved cardiovascular capacity. No side effects were reported by users of policosanol.

Patients taking the sugar pill and patients taking policosanol were all following a fat restricted diet. But only the patients taking policosanol had these positive benefits. I do not believe there is a prescription drug on the market that can match the positive effects of policosanol in this study.

Was this a fluke? By no means. Several studies have reported similar drops in bad cholesterol and gains in good cholesterol levels. These authors concluded simply, "...policosanol is effective, safe, and well tolerated in older [patients with high cholesterol]." What more could you ask?

What is policosanol? How does it work? Where can you buy it? Exactly how does it stack up against cholesterol lowering drugs? That is what I'll attempt to answer very soon in this space.