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Do cholesterol-lowering drugs constitute a medical miracle, almost free of side effects? Or is this a false, and close to criminal, misleading impression that pharmaceutical companies are promoting?
Here’s the popular Australian science television show Catalyst that reactionaries tried to stop. The show aired the other day, despite the protests.
The show does an excellent job of bringing forward a more nuanced picture than that of the drug advertisements. The reality is that cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins) may be beneficial for people already diagnosed with heart disease (previous myocardial infarction or angina).
For healthy people the benefit is minimal, and the risk of side effects (such as muscle pain, fatigue, disorientation and diabetes) usually outweighs the benefits.
Watch the episode for a frightening picture of how pharmaceutical companies have inflated the benefits and hidden the risk of side effects. But don’t be surprised. This is exactly how similar companies have been demonstrated to act in many similar cases.
These are no conspiracy theories. This is just how it works in a market economy with inadequate regulation and inadequate scrutiny. Companies will take shortcuts to greater profits as soon as they think they can get away with it. Continue Reading →
Does a low-carb diet “violate God’s principles”? That’s what televangelist Pat Robertson claims, and he doesn’t really care about “all these scientific tests” showing that low-carb works fine.
- Huffington Post: Pat Robertson Claims Low-Carb Diet ‘Violates’ God’s Principles
- The Independent: American TV evangelist Pat Robertson slams low-carb diets for ‘violating’ God’s principles
Me, I’d rather stay with science when it comes to what’s healthy, than some random person’s personal interpretation of God’s will.
Here’s what started it all, a news segment starring Jimmy Moore and other low-carb success stories:
Is a strict LCHF diet with unlimited amounts of saturated fat bad for cholesterol levels?
Tommy Runesson has had his blood lipid levels checked four times, including just recently, during his four years on an ultra-strict LCHF diet. The major part of his 200 lb-weight loss (!) occurred before his first blood test, and we don’t know what the numbers were before his weight loss.
The numbers look great. We’re not seeing the significantly elevated total-cholesterol number that a small percentage of individuals show on a strict LCHF diet.
I’d say Runesson’s numbers represent the typical result of a long-term strict LCHF: a normal total cholesterol and LDL, excellent HDL and triglycerides, and a very nice apo-B/apo-A1 ratio. This is what I typically see in most patients that I follow.
Runesson’s results also contradict the strange idea that an LCHF diet may produce good lipid numbers because of ongoing weight loss, but that they would suddenly turn disastrous when weight stabilizes, for some obscure reason. This idea has been put forward by some LCHF skeptics. As far as I know there’s no science to support this idea.
In any case: Runesson has been eating an extremely strict LCHF diet for four years, and has maintained stable weight for the last 2.5 years. And his cholesterol profile is far better than most people’s.
PS: I’m planning another cholesterol checkup myself this fall, after 7 years on an LCHF diet.
Continue Reading →
Are you ready for the destruction of a few choice low-carb myths? A week ago I participated in a discussion, invited by a very popular Brazilian health site. Here’s the video – the English part starts at 2:28, after an introduction in Portuguese.
Some of the myths we discuss are:
- Myth: Carbohydrates are an essential part of a healthy diet.
- Myth: Fats are fattening and cause heart problems.
- Myth: Cholesterol in food is bad for your heart.
- Myth: To lose weight you need to count calories.
- Myth: Exercise is effective for weight loss.
Did you ever believe in any of these myths? I did.
Which diet works best long-term for weight loss and improved health markers? Some say: eat fewer calories and go hungry. Others say: eat fewer carbohydrates.
Many 21st Century studies have compared the effect of these two popular pieces of advice. At least 18 studies of the highest quality have clearly shown a better weight loss result from a low-carb diet. Low-fat and low-cal diets have not won in any comparison.
Now, a new analysis selecting 13 of the most well-designed and reliable long-term studies, summarizes the results. The winner? You probably guessed right. The same as usual.
Reality now becomes increasingly difficult for opponents to explain away. Continue Reading →
Cholesterol-lowering drugs, so called statins, may decrease the risk for heart disease somewhat. But they may also lead to side effects, such as: muscle pain, muscle fatigue, disorientation and a lower IQ, fatigue, impotence and so on.
One side effect that has long been known is that statins increase the risk of developing diabetes. You could, for example, have read about this on my Swedish blog three years ago and in my Swedish book The Food rEvolution, 2011. Now, a few years later, it’s been added as a “very important” update of the text in the Swedish catalogue of approved drugs, FASS: Diabetes is a possible side effect.
Hence another reason not to spread statins far and wide to heart-healthy individuals with “high cholesterol” – which is often defined as 200 mg/dl and above. Most of the healthy population has a total cholesterol number above 200 mg/dl, so this is one of the more obvious cases of disease mongering (the “selling of sickness”) you can imagine.
When it comes to heart disease (angina, previous heart attack) the benefit of statin treatment might be worth the risk. But if you treat your normal cholesterol number with statins you risk getting diabetes for no good reason. Does this sound like a good idea? Hardly, but it happens many times every day.
It seems that the fear of cholesterol is melting away. And the patents on the massively profitable cholesterol-lowering medications are starting to expire. Coincidence? We may never know.
A couple of days ago Dr Oz had a show (“the most important show that I’ve ever had on cholesterol”) on why “Everything you know about cholesterol is wrong”. He called it a “game changer”.
The message was probably familiar to many well-educated readers. Total cholesterol is an almost meaningless number. To get valuable information from cholesterol numbers means you have to look at them more closely: at HDL, LDL (including particle size) and triglycerides. If we do that the traditional message to avoid fat and cholesterol falls apart – it might lower your cholesterol somewhat but turn what you have into MORE harmful cholesterol.
Eating a low carb high fat diet might raise your total cholesterol a tiny amount (on average) but it raises your good HDL cholesterol (good for your health), lowers your triglycerides (good for your health) and increases the size of your LDL particles (good for your health!).
Now even Dr Oz seems to get it. The fear of cholesterol is melting away.
A new review of all major studies on low carb diets once again show good news. Not only the weight improves: All important risk factors for heart disease get better. That includes blood pressure, blood sugar and the cholesterol profile.
Insulin levels also drop, obviously. That should only surprise a few bloggers. Those who still refuse to believe that low carb diets lower insulin or that low insulin is important for weight loss.
PS: For fast news consider following my Twitter-channel. I tweeted on this paper a few days ago.
Here’s the silliest health scare of the month:
As usual the headline is based on science of the fluffiest kind: an observational study. The sort that doesn’t prove cause and effect.
This egg-study is even weaker than usual. Instead of trying to make people remember what they ate last week they actually asked people how many egg yolks they ate decades ago. Quickly: How many egg yolks did you eat in 1987? Do you remember?
As usual those who ate more whole eggs during the low fat fad also smoked more etc. So we’re comparing people who ignore health advice with people who try to be healthy. There are thousands of differences between these two groups and it’s impossible to control for them all. But the authors of the study believe that it all comes down to egg yolks.
It’s silly and nobody who knows how these studies are done take the results too seriously. But the press loves them. They supply a never ending stream of juicy headlines.
That’s a lot of drugs!
All this apparently started with “high cholesterol”. Of course, most healthy people have cholesterol over the arbitrary number 200 mg/dL. The number that has been defined as the cutoff for “high cholesterol”. So if you go and check your cholesterol, chances are it’s “high”.
Maybe you too can wear the T-shirt in the future.
PS: Melody Petersen has written a fascinating book titled, like this post, “Our Daily Meds”. If the post above upsets you, wait until you read the book.
PPS, added: I doubt many people need “regular chiropractic care” either.
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