Only one of the following statements is true. Can you guess which one?
a). Cholesterol clogs your arteries.
b). Cholesterol causes heart attacks.
c). Cholesterol will cause you to grow an extra head, have deformed kids, glow in the dark, then spontaneously combust at the age of 66.
d). Cholesterol is an essential substance without which we humans simply could not exist. It is a vital component of cells and used as a crucial substrate for cellular repair, has antioxidant properties, and may protect against infectious diseases. Your nervous system is especially dependent on cholesterol, which is found in high concentration in your brain and the myelin sheaths surrounding your nerves. Cholesterol has never, I repeat NEVER been clinically demonstrated to cause a single heart attack; the evidence linking cholesterol to heart disease was originally inspired by totally irrelevant rabbit studies conducted in Russia a century ago, and now rests entirely upon extremely spurious epidemiological associations. The main benefactors of the idiotic war on cholesterol are not members of the public wishing to avoid heart disease but those in the medical, diagnostic, and pharmaceutical industries. Oh, and let's not forget the 'non-profit' (cough, cough) heart associations that thrive on this same paradigm ("Pssst, can I interest you in a cheap-as-chips Heart Check/Tick? Five grand and she's yours, bro!")
If you guessed d), go to the to top of the class. If you guessed a) or b), you are an unfortunate victim of the massive cholesterol brainwashing campaign that has been running strong for some 50 years now.
And if you guessed c), it's probably time to ease up on the Mary Jane...
Study # 10,675 Showing the Cholesterol Theory is Still Garbage
Recently, some refreshingly non-brainwashed researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) noted that "the predictive properties of cholesterol might not be as straightforward as widely assumed." Now there's a huge understatement. So they set out to document the strength and validity of total cholesterol as a risk factor for mortality in a sizable sample of Norwegians without known CVD at baseline. As part of the HUNT 2 study, they ended up with 10-year follow-up data from 52,087 individuals (24,235 men and 27,852 women) aged 20–74 years and free from known CVD at the start of the study.
And what did they find, you ask?
Screw Diamonds: Cholesterol is a Girl's Best Friend
Among women, serum cholesterol had an inverse association with all-cause mortality. Meaning that, as cholesterol went up, the risk of visiting that big Zara outlet in the sky went down. Compared with women whose cholesterol was under 5.0 mmol/l (193 mg/dl), those with a reading over 7.0 mmol/l (270 mg/dl) enjoyed a 28% relative risk reduction of dying. This risk was determined after adjusting for age, smoking and systolic blood pressure.
An almost identical relationship with cardiovascular disease (ie, CHD, heart failure, stroke) was observed. As cholesterol went up, risk of dying from cardiac arrest and stroke declined.
When coronary heart disease mortality was examined in isolation, the association with cholesterol appeared to follow a U-shaped curve. The lowest CHD risk was seen between 5.0-6.9 mmol/l, which hardly supports the simple-minded "lower is better" mentality that has come to dominate the CHD prevention arena.
And, at the end of the day, the most important figure of all is overall mortality. No matter what the cause of death, if you're the last one left standing, then you achieved the best result. And among this sample of over 27,000 Norwegian women, the higher the cholesterol level, the more likely this result.
So ladies, next time a monopolistic South African diamond cartel employs a Madison Avenue firm to convince you some rock that may have been taken from impoverished miners at gunpoint or removed from a disemboweled smuggler in the African Congo is your "best friend", just ignore them. There's a new ester in town, and it doesn't cost a cent! Go cholesterol, go cholesterol, go cholesterol...
What About the Blokes?
Don't worry, Uncle Anthony hasn't forgotten about his Nordic brothers. Among the 24,000 or so chaps in HUNT 2, cholesterol showed a U-shaped curve in overall, cardiovascular and CHD mortality risk. The lowest risk for all these causes of death was seen in the 5.0-5.9 mmol/l category, which again hardly supports the reigning lower-is-better cholesterolmania. Compared to those with serum cholesterol under 5.0, those in the 5.0-5.9 category enjoyed 23%, 20% and 6% RR reductions in overall, CVD and CHD death, respectively.
As I discussed in The Great Cholesterol Con, this U-shaped association between cholesterol and overall/CVD mortality has been observed before in adult males. But not always. And not in all age groups. For example, a U-shaped curve was noted in men and women in the famous Framingham study, but it disappeared in folks over 50, where cholesterol bore no relationship to CVD or total mortality. In fact, numerous studies have shown that in older folks, elevated cholesterol level is predictive of greater longevity in men and women alike (in the HUNT 2 study, mortality by age group was not shown for each quartile of cholesterol level).
Lower cholesterol levels in males are associated with a greater risk of death from violent causes (suicide, homicide, accidents) and increased cancer mortality. The latter relationship may or may not be an effect of the disease on cholesterol levels, but the link between low cholesterol and aggression/impaired cognitive function has some pretty compelling clinical evidence behind it.
As for the relationship between the highest cholesterol quartiles and increased mortality in men, I'm guessing a mix of factors is hiding behind the on-again, off-again association between high cholesterol and mortality in working age men: job stress and iron levels are two that come to mind immediately.
It's the Iron, Stupid!
Let's forget about cholesterol for a moment, and talk about things that really do cause heart disease. Things like iron, which is a crucial and healthful mineral in the right amounts, but becomes a potent pro-oxidant, cancerous, diabetic, atherosclerotic, coagulative little bastard in excessive amounts.
Remember those nasty old jokes about women living longer than men because that's nature's reward to them for putting up with men, or men dying earlier than women because women have driven them batshit crazy into an early grave?
Turns out they're both wrong.
Up until women hit menopause, their mean bodily iron stores remain significantly lower than men thanks to menstruation. And up until menopause, women enjoy far lower rates of heart disease than men. In fact, pre-menopausal women enjoy the lowest mortality rates of any adult group.
Unfortunately, the honeymoon stops when women hit menopause. That's when their bodily iron stores and their CVD risk suddenly head skyward. In their senior years, women lose their protection against heart disease as elevated iron starts causing the kind of havoc it's been causing in mens' bodies all along.
And for those of you who object that it's estrogen that explains the difference, I've got one word for you: hysterectomy.
Actually, make that six words: Hysterectomy involving removal of the uterus only.
Yeah, I already know what you're thinking: "One minute Colpo's talking about heart disease, now he's talking about uteruses? What the...?!"
Patience my little grasshoppers, patience.
It works like this: If you take a pre-menopausal woman, and remove her uterus, which is the component of her reproductive organs that sheds its lining and loses iron-containing blood each month - but leave her estrogen-producing ovaries intact - her risk of heart disease rises just as sharply as if you removed her uterus and ovaries.
Now, tell me how estrogen protects against heart disease again?
It's the iron, folks.
So fellas, keep an eye on those serum ferritin levels, and ladies...
When Someone Tries Pushing Cholesterol Drugs Onto You, Make Like Some Beeyatch Just Hit on Your Husband
Not only does cholesterol have bugger all association with heart disease in women, but those so-called 'miracle' cholesterol-lowering drugs do absolutely diddly for women. Meta-analyses of major statin trials show that women derive no overall mortality benefit whatsoever from lipid-lowering drugs[2,3]. Yet doctors still prescribe them to men and women with equal zeal.
The bottom line is that women are getting royally shafted by the cholesterol mafia.
Geez, where are all the angry, square-jawed, men-hating feminists when you need them? Probably too busy campaigning for such earth-shattering bollocks like the English language replacement of "man" with "person". Yeah, that'll improve the lot of women...especially post-menopausal women who lose their low-iron CHD advantage upon reaching menopause, and start dying from heart disease in droves because their statin-obsessed doctors are totally oblivious to the role of iron in heart disease.
Stop the world, I wanna get off...
Cholesterol conversion: For those of you about to write me asking what a 3.7 or 5.9 or 6.25789 mmol/l cholesterol reading is in mg/dl - what am I, your mother or something? Do the conversion yourself, you lazy sods, with this handy online cholesterol conversion thingy:
Anthony Colpo is an independent researcher, physical conditioning specialist, and author of the groundbreaking books The Fat Loss Bible and The Great Cholesterol Con. For more information, visit TheFatLossBible.net or TheGreatCholesterolCon.com
Copyright © Anthony Colpo.
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