Nutritional Suggestions: Is Cholesterol a Serious Health Issue?

By Philip A. Pappas, Ph.D.

The medical community and drug makers are advising consumers of the importance of lowering cholesterol levels.  The American Heart Journal (2006:785-92) announced that clinicians are “under-prescribing” statin drugs.  They suggest a 60% increase in statin drugs.

However, do the facts actually support the ever increasing use of statin drugs and are they truly safe?  A recent study found that statin treatment causes a deterioration of blood sugar control in diabetics (Atheroscler Thromb 2006 Apr; 13(2): 95-100).  It was also reported that statin drugs caused muscular damage (rhabdomyolysis) even when the patient has no symptoms of pain or weakness (J Pathol 2006 210(1):94-102).  All statin package circulars suggest discontinuation of statin treatment if muscle pain develops.   The resulting muscular damage can be irreversible. One study found an elevated risk of lymphoid malignancy with statin use among Japanese patients (Cancer Sci 2006;97:133-138). The prestigious medical journal Lancet suggested that statins interfere with selenium pathways (Lancet 363:892-94, 2004), and this may to lead serious illness including cancer.

Is low cholesterol good? Many studies link cholesterol under 160 to decreased longevity, stroke, depression, aggressive behavior and cancer. The all-cause death rate is higher in individuals with cholesterol levels lower than 180 mg/dl. (Circulation 1992 86:3:1026-1029)  “Bad news for drug makers includes a doubling of heart failure rates since statins were introduced” (Circulation, February 6, 2006).   Very low cholesterol is associated with poor survival in heart failure patents (American Journal of Cardiology, September 2006).  A recent study indicates that a decline in total cholesterol levels precedes the diagnosis of dementia by at least fifteen years (Archives of Neurology 2007; 64:103-107).  Additional evidence suggests that low levels of LDL-cholesterol are associated with Parkinson’s disease.

Researchers estimate that between 1% and 5% of statin users will experience muscle pain and weakness as a side effect.  Rhabdomyolysis can be fatal and/or irreversible, and is grossly under-reported.  A recent Washington Post investigation and article suggests that the side effect rate of statins is 30% (Is Your Doctor in Denial? By Ishani Ganguli, Aug, 28, 2007)

Is the cholesterol hypothesis valid? Many professionals suggest that inflammation is the cause of heart disease and treating inflammation, not lowering cholesterol, is the answer.

Tests already exist to measure inflammation such as homocystiene, and C-reactive protein, however many physicians fail to run these tests.  Additionally, stress can elevate cholesterol resulting from excess cortisol levels.  Statins are not approved nor are they logical treatment for stress and elevated cortisol levels.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”— Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.).  Cholesterol lowering diets are available.  Cod liver oil or fish oil has always been an effective and a healthy way to lower cholesterol.  Before statins, niacin was used to lower cholesterol and still works well.  A tablespoon of olive oil daily, will raise your HDL’s (good cholesterol) better than any drug.  There are many effective cholesterol lowering supplements available without any devastating side effects.

We need a certain level of cholesterol to stay healthy.   So what is the urgency for increased use of statins?  Statins sales for the current 26 million Americans taking them reached $15 billion this year. The new recommendations may increase the number of users to 36 million and increase sales to $20.8 billion.  Those new recommendations are generated for the most part by drug company research.  They contend that increased usage will save lives but they offer no significant proof.  Will statin makers pay the cost for those injured by statins?  Don’t hold your breath. What can you do to avoid taking statin drugs?   Eat healthy, exercise regularly, lose 20 pounds, and lower your stress levels.   Try super-sizing a healthy lifestyle.


Dr. Pappas is a certified nutritionist with 20 years of experience in natural health. He also has 25 years of experience in the health care industry.  To learn more about Dr. Pappas and his Natural Food Store in Bucks County, PA

Please visit his site at:

or call 1-215-794-5311

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Earth Foods is more than your regular natural food store, they offer a wide range of products and services not found in most natural and health food stores.

Copyright – Dr. Phil Pappas – used with permission.

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